— This is a chair, said the examiner. A person is made in such a way that he can sit where he likes. He can sit on the ground,
she knelt and patted the floor.
— Or even on the table itself,
she patted the table.
— However, if you are in company, it is best to sit in a chair unless there is a good reason to sit elsewhere. In a chair, one can sit with good posture, that is, with the skeleton set into good order.
He looked at her with puzzlement.
— The skeleton, she said, is a hard substance, hard like wood, like the wood of this chair. It is all through the inside of your body, and mine. It keeps us stiff, and allows our muscles something to pull and push on. That is how we move. Muscles are the way the body obeys the mind.
— Here, she said. Come sit in the chair.
The claimant came across the room slowly. He moved to sit in the chair, and then sat in it. He felt very good sitting in the chair. Immediately he understood why the house was full of chairs.
— They put chairs wherever someone might sit.
— They do, she said. And if your needs change, you can move chairs from place to place. Come, let us eat. We shall walk to the kitchen, and there we will get the things we shall eat; also, we will get the things on which we shall eat, and the things with which we shall eat. We will not eat our food there; we’ll go to the dining room, or to the enclosed porch. This will be a nice thing for us. Having gotten the food and the implements, we will decide whether we want to eat on the porch or in the dining room. Do you know how we will decide that?
The claimant shook his head.
— You do. Think carefully. Say what comes to mind.
— If it is a nice day, outside . . .
— That is one reason, one of many reasons, why a person would choose to sit outside. It is a good reason. It is always best to have a good reason for doing things, a reason that can be explained to others if you must. One should not live in fear of explaining oneself – but a rational person is capable of explaining, and even sometimes likes to do so.
— A person whose life is lived on the basis of understanding rather than ignorance.
— Am I ignorant?
— Ignorance is not about the amount of knowledge. It is about the mechanism of choosing actions. If one chooses actions based upon that which is known to be true – and tries hard to make that domain grow, the domain of knowledge – then he will be rational. Meanwhile, someone else who has much more knowledge might make decisions without paying any attention to truth. That person is ignorant.
— A mechanism, she continued, is the way a thing is gone about.
They went into the kitchen. On the wall was a painting of a woman feeding chickens with millet. The millet poured from her hand in a gentle arc. Around about her feet the chickens waited in a ring, looking up at her. When the arc made its way to the ground, they would eat.
Beside it was a photograph of a hill. There was a hole somewhere in it.
The claimant paused at these wall hangings, and stood looking. The examiner came and stood by him.
— What is different about these? she asked him.
He thought for a while.
— About them?
— What’s the difference between them? I should say. When I say, what is different about these, I am making two groups – them and the rest of the world. When I say between them, I am setting them against each other. Do you see?
— This one happens less often.
He pointed to the woman with the chickens.
— Less often?
— If you go looking for them, outside the house, he said, you could probably find the other one, no matter when you looked. But, you can’t find this one.
— Why not? Because it is a painting?
— A painting?
— Because it is made by hand – with strokes of a brush? Or for another reason?
— I didn’t mean that, he said. I am tired. Can I sit down?
— Yes, let’s go to our lunch. We can return to this later.