Sunday 1 March 2009

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The Philosopher

© John Sawyer – February 2009

My daughter is very proud of her son, my grandson; quite rightly. She is always quick to ring and tell me of his latest intellectual achievement:

  • “He’s spent the last hour in his room reading. He’s got through quite a few books already this week.”
  • “He just asked me: ‘Do all superheros have sidekicks?’”

She also rings to tell me about his latest idea or his latest joke. He often rings some time later to tell me the same joke. I’m always suitably surprised and impressed and laugh appreciatively and sometimes I even add the joke to my joke site.

Last night I got a phone call: “He really is a bit of a thinker, even a philosopher. He just asked:

‘Do blind people see pictures when they dream?’

"What do you think?”

“Gee, that’s a good question. I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up.”

I go back to my book, but I’ve been distracted now. I think about the question. He’s a bloody brilliant young bloke. Like his grandfather, ha ha. How can he harness those questions and ideas? How do I encourage that thinking?

The phone rings again: “Hello Grampa.”

“Hello Nick, how are you?”

“Good! Hey Grampa, I’ve got a question for you. Do blind people see pictures when they dream?”

“Gee, I dunno Nick. That’s a great question mate. What do you see when you dream?”

“I see pictures.”

“What sort of pictures?

“All sorts.”

I wonder to myself if we have images in there when we are born. Images that tell us of danger. Images from prehistory that make us irrationally afraid of snakes or moths. Did I read that rabbits know the shape of an eagle is danger and know to run and hide when they see that shape? Their communication skills aren’t good enough to let them pass the warning from generation to generation.

“Do you ever dream of dinosaurs, Nick?”

“Yes I do when I have a bad dream.”

“You know our friend Harriett?”


“Well she has this fear of moths. I wonder if she’d still be afraid if she was blind. I wonder if she would have them as dreams if she’d never seen them. Anyway, it’s a bloody good … err excellent question Nick. Why don’t you look it up on the computer?”

“I will Grampa … later. I’m going to watch Simpsons now.”

I don’t watch Simpsons, so I go and look it up on the WWW and find that blind people only dream in pictures if they’ve become blind four or five years after they’re born. People who are blind from birth dream in other senses, mainly sounds. That’s if you believe the WWW.

Nick didn’t go to watch the Simpsons and I didn’t get an excited, proud phone call about his next achievement. While I was researching, Nick’s mother and sister settled into their beanbags and watched the Simpsons. Next thing they hear: “Mum, can you help me?” “Mum, I need your help in the toilet.” “Hey Mum.”

My daughter found Nick in the toilet. He’d managed to use his plastic batman handcuffs to accidentally lock himself to the toilet roll holder.

Come to think of it, I didn’t get an excited phone call when he’d “accidentally” sprayed the cat under its armpit with red hair spray. I did get a complaint about “your bloody grandson” some days later.


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