Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


A Man Without Words

Susan Schaller (1991)

 

"Ildefonso." I was surprised at how much security I derived from knowing his name. My brain, unlike his, found reality more real, more defined, when it was named. I could not imagine a nameless world, empty of all the information given me via a million names and words, and I wished it were possible to peer into his name-free brain. (31)

He broke through. He understood. He had forded the same river Helen Keller did at the water pump when she suddenly connected the water rushing over her hand with the word spelled into it. Yes, w-a-t-e-r and c-a-t mean something. And the cat-meaning in one head can join the cat-meaning in another's head just by tossing out a cat. . . . But a suddenly as he had asked for names, he turned pale, collapsed, and wept. . . . He had entered the universe of humanity, discovered the communion of minds. He now knew that he and a cat and a table all had names, and the fruit of his knowledge had opened his eyes to evil. He could see the prison where he had existed alone, shut out of the human race for twenty-seven years. (44-5)

She knew of no one who had studied first language acquisition in adults. There were the accounts of "wild" persons who were found from time to time, but she didn't think they would be useful to me, since children, deaf, wild, or normal, differ greatly from adults in language acquisition. The human brain changes dramatically from infancy to post-puberty, making language learning a completely different task for an adult. (65-6)

His mind was certainly not a tabula rasa; thousands of experiences and sensations had etched impressions and stimulated thinking. But his mind was empty of all information that needs language as its conduit. It didn't matter how smart he was. (74)

Compared to Ildefonso, I was a god. Like a Martian who befriends the first earthling he meets, Ildefonso mistook me for the leader of my planet. He couldn't know that most of my language and information was shared and common. (75)

I explained that I had met a man without language who told me about his encounters with green men. I was writing about this man, and it would help me to understand more about his life if I knew how the Border Patrol worked.
"How do you know this man had anything to do with immigration officials?" the boy asked. I repeated the "green" story that Ildefonso had told me while wondering what impression Ildefonso would have had of this tall Aryan.
"How do you know this man's an illegal resident?" he persisted. "I mean, we have to go to school to learn how to know if someone's an illegal resident."
"Well, I just assumed he was, because his story implied that he had been arrested." . . . Because he looked at me suspiciously, I explained that I wasn't really interested in the Border Patrol itself, just in this man's life.
"You say you're writing a book about this man, but how do I know you're not a reporter? I'm not supposed to be talking to anyone. You need to talk to my superior." (94-5)

Ildefonso told me months later that his leisure activity was watching people. He found crowded places, sat in a central location by a fountain or sculpture, and watched the pedestrians, studying the way they dressed, walked, talked, and touched. He saw giggling, kissing, playing, and fighting, human games in which he could not participate. His first history lesson and our other dialogues began to eliminate some of the mystery of the human interactions he liked to observe. I wished his first lessons had been on the ideals of Athenian democracy or the peace-loving Hopi tribe or the greatest inventions and discoveries in history, instead of green men and the unfortunate significance of the color of one's skin. (100-01)

He possessed what Luria refers to as an inner life. "Regardless of how primitive or abbreviated language may be," Luria writes, "it is pivotal to cognition; by means of it we designate numbers, perform mathematics, calculations, analyze our perceptions, distinguish the essential from the inessential, and form categories of distinct impressions. Apart from being a means of communication, language is fundamental to perception and memory, thinking and behavior. It organizes our inner life." Ildefonso had some sort of inner life, but without language and information, thoughts and ideas from others, it could not be complete. (105-06)

"Who? Birthday who?" Ildefonso asked. I started to explain the origins of Christmas, but felt uncomfortable looking into his wide-open eyes. He didn't have enough language to understand the difference between religious beliefs and facts about multiplication or political boundaries. Since I couldn't explain the difference between a belief and a fact, he would assume that the idea that Jesus is God's son was as universally accepted as "This is called a chair" and "Blacks came from Africa." (127)

He undoubtedly had gone to church every Sunday. What did he think of all the icons and pictures, the altar, the incense and priestly robes, the raised silver goblet and white wafers held out to the people filing by? Was it any stranger to him than watching people reset their clocks or argue on television? (128-9)

He paused and frowned and asked me, "Why do people have such big places?" He mimed people grabbing things to their chest and accumulating great possessions, then he described the wealth around us. He compared this to the poverty in Mexico and looked sad and thoughtful. Language didn't help to explain some things in the world. (130)

Sometimes I read or heard arguments about thinking and language. "Can we think without language?" I heard someone ask. "No, of course not," someone else answered. Everything I read or heard was purely abstract, hypothetical, and speculative. (132)

I met and informally interviewed the other teachers. Almost everyone had stories about teaching a prelingual adult. . . . How could such a gulf exist between the universities and the streets? How could a researcher consider a prelingual deaf adult learning language a once-in-a-lifetime happening when four were sitting at the same table only a few miles away? (146)

As I entered the smoke-filled room, Dr. McKinney waved her left hand in the direction of the only empty chair.
"I thought you were in a graduate program," she said at once, explaining that she had no idea I was writing on my own, although I had never indicated otherwise in our four months of communication.
I explained that I had become interested in writing something, at least an article or two, when I discovered how little had been written. Since people in university settings seemed ignorant of languagelessness, I thought it more productive to stay outside of academic circles. She agreed about the academic perspective but counseled me to go through the system in order to change it. She would not help me, she continued, now that she realized that I was not affiliated with a university. "Why should I help you with your commercial enterprise?" she asked.
I sat speechless, trying to understand how my interest could be interpreted as a commercial enterprise. Carefully, I explained that my curiosity and interest developed during and after my work with Ildefonso. I repeated how delighted I was to meet her and observe her program. She had more information than perhaps anyone in the United States on the language acquisition of deaf adults. The world, according to the card catalogs and the people I had met, was ignorant and needed this information. She had far more expertise and experience than I, and I would be more than happy to assist her. It would be far better for her to publish the information.
"I haven't the time. There is too much to be done here," she sighed, and lit another cigarette. She explained how difficult it was to get grants and contributions to keep the center open. She would probably have to lay off some of the faculty in the fall. I repeated my offer to help her. I could organize the information in her files, count the number of people that had learned their first language through her program, and note their progress. She could supervise, and she could publish.
I don't think she paid any attention. She didn't want to show me any of her files and concluded with, "If you were in a Ph.D. program, I'd help you because then I'd know you would be a future colleague." She had work to do; I was no longer welcome. I stared at the filing cabinet where lay clues about many once languageless minds, now closed, locked, and guarded by this woman and her clouds of smoke. (147)

We credit language with playing an enormous role in personality and moral development, mental health and intelligence, but the differences between Ildefonso and wild children challenge us to re-examine what gives us our human attributes. (156)


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