Susan Schaller and the Story of a Contemporary Miracle — by Richard Whittaker

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Welles
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Susan Schaller and the Story of a Contemporary Miracle — by Richard Whittaker

Post by Welles » Tue Aug 13, 2019 5:17 pm

Richard Whitaker conducts interviews with people all of whom pique his interest. He has a deep fascination with the worlds of original thinkers and creators of all sorts and the interviews are excellent. This one caught my interest for it was about a subject I had never even considered and I was entranced by the entire story. He introduces this interview with these preliminary thoughts.
Are there adults living today who have not learned any language, who cannot even conceive of language? They do exist, although, according to Susan Schaller, there's almost nothing written about them. Perhaps that's because, according to the prevailing views of experts, adults who have not acquired language will never be able to do so. This was not an area to which I'd given a single thought until my unexpected meeting with a stranger one day in a Berkeley restaurant. It's a nice coincidence that the unlikely meeting took place in an unlikely setting, on the one afternoon a week that "A Taste of the Himalayas" is taken over by a group of grassroots philanthropists who serve a four-course meal for the price of $0.00. It's Karma Kitchen, where all customers are treated to a pay-it-forward dining experience. The atmosphere that inevitably seems to develop releases some of the reticence of strangers meeting strangers. People are invited to share tables with people they haven't met before. Besides the radical practice of not charging for the meal, it's another piece of the gentle iconoclasm of the place. Without fail, each week lots of stories are generated about unexpected connections, and my meeting Susan Schaller is one of them.

Susan was seated directly across the table from me. I'm less anxious than I used to be about meeting strangers, but it's still an awkward process. We were both feeling our way along. Independent scholarship came up and how if you don't have a Ph.D. you're up against a lot of prejudice. Then we got into the subject of language and soon, presto! I was hearing an extraordinary story. The more I heard, the more extraordinary it sounded. Turns out Schaller had written a book about it [A Man without Words, University of California Press, 1995]. Her story was so remarkable I asked if she'd agree to an interview. A few weeks later we met at my house. As I was preparing tea, the conversation soon headed into territory I wanted to catch on tape. Wait a minute! With cups in hand we sat down and I fumbled with my old Sony Walkman and got it rolling. We'd started talking about adults without language of any kind. Where would one encounter such a person, I wondered?
Susan Schaller and the Story of a Contemporary Miracle — by Richard Whittaker

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Re: Susan Schaller and the Story of a Contemporary Miracle — by Richard Whittaker

Post by Sandy » Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:05 pm

Thanks Welles. I just finished the article. I have never looked at the subject in this way. It truly opened my eyes... I loved the final paragraph and I am not going to give away the subject matter. :) It is surprising in that I can't believe I hadn't thought of this before. It is eye opening and in a way something to cheer about, to tuck under our heart and remember as we interact with all people who will offer an amazing slant on life and experience that will so illuminate our own.
love,
Sandy
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

~ Chief Seattle ~

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