Friday, September 02, 2016

Is there "Forever"? An inquiry into the mystery of "forever" with my Grade Six pupils and how they proved Wittgenstein's language game theory

Lunch break was almost over and I had collected my pupils and asked them to settle down while I prepare to give them a seat work till the next teacher arrives.

But there was a debate going on in the other side of the class room. I overheard words like "I don't believe in forever; I believe in destiny." There was agreement and, also, there's protest from another side. These kids can be passionate about stuffs they hold on to, young and naive as they are, that they'd go as far as outshout their opponents.

So, to put a stop to the arguments, I stood up and told the class that there is "forever." There was an uproar especially among the girls. They were adamant that there was no such a thing as "forever." It was unbelievable and crazy, almost religious fanaticism.

I backed off, lest I'd be mugged by children. 

I knew how I'm going to attack the issue but I needed to chill the room's temperature down. 

"You!" I pointed to a pupil, "stand up and in the front and bring your dictionary!" To which Mark obliged with a smile. "Look for the word 'Forever'!". 

"Forever: magpakailanman." He read. 

"See, there's forever in the dictionary!" I said. 

"That's not true!" The class shouted and I'm starting to feel that my logic was useless against their almost fanatical belief.

'Why?" I pleaded. "The dictionary proves it."

"Sir, that's not true!" Ellis protested, he's one of the leaders of the anti-"forever" group. "Why?" I reasoned and the answer was a loud denial of the authority of the dictionary.

"Ok, children, listen to me. Words are there because they point to something. Example, a dog, there is a word 'dog' because there is a dog. If there is no dog, then there is no reason to have the word 'dog'.

I wrote the words "dog" on the board and put an arrow to a "real, true dog." See, dog: dog. Or cat: cat.

Again, Ellis, Jerish, Lara and the rest of the gang refused to accept my argument. "You cannot touch and see 'forever' like a dog!"

There goes the analogy. The problem with this argument is when abstracts are introduced. So, my picture/representation-meaning argument was starting to crack.

But I persisted, "can you touch love?"

"No," a short retort.

"But is there love?"


"Then there must be forever!"



"Because it's not true, and there's no forever."

I could not get through and if I persisted with my arguments and analogies, well just go into full circle again because it seems they couldn't and wouldn't accept reason. 

I am tempted to go into a long discussion about abstract nouns and why even though they do not exist in the concrete they do exist as a concept. 

Like unicorns, though we know that unicorns do not exist yet they are composite of things that exist: the horse and the horn. 

It is the same with forever. Though it is not real, or it has no concrete existence, yet it exist, as a concept at least, because we know time, we know the concept of time and we are subject to the reality of time. We are finite; we know things end; we know people die; we know things don't last. "Forever" is simply an antonym of these. 

But, I'm talking with children and even if I explain this to them, I didn't think it would work.

As a last resort, as was practiced by the Greeks and adapted by modern democratic countries, I am bringing the issue to the people. I conducted a plebiscite among my pupils to determine whether there's "forever" and otherwise.

As i expected, I lost. Though I had few votes especially among the boys, I knew it was a sympathy vote and nothing more.

Here's the thing:

I knew that I will never be able to convince them that there's forever. No matter how I try and what I reasoning I use because we are talking of two different things. For me "forever" is a word, a concept. But for them, "Forever" is a soap opera. Their phonetics of "forever" they learned from the plot of the telenovela "Forevermore." The semantics is a distillation of the failing in, falling out, fighting for, love affair of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.

This is why, for them, "forever" will never be true because for them "forever" is a telenovela.

We're in a different language game.

Well, at least I tried.

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