The Canadian years,42 the amorphs

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Tuesday 23 December 18:50


Object that are difficult to measure

The class was filled with those who would be subject to the intellect of Mister Wall. ‘Ave Caesar,’ I thought, ‘those who are about to die salute you.’ ‘Today,’ mister Wall began, I will begin with a tour past some desks, unselective, so to speak’. Years it would  take before I would hear such a reserved, drawling voice in a series that was called ’the jewel and the crown’, about the Britishin  India in 1800 and which was very popular in the 80s. It was about a gay officer who molested little Indian boys and was ruthlessly cruel to his men and all capped with British reserve. It was his way to enforce absolute order and discipline. In the first episode of 'the jewel and the crown' I bounced upright on the couch in my living room. A voice had reached out to me over the years, a voice in which all power and cruelty in a reserved manner was contained. Suddenly I realized the link of our 'caning' master, who also taught mathematics, with the ruthless cruel officer in the series, both were unsure and kept standing with a false front.

Today I want to see the effects of my lessons on the amorphs, place you homework in front of you, but open on the issues of today. With his cane in his hand, he walked towards the ‘amorphs’.’ For those who have not benefited from classical literature’, mister Wall continued,’ amorphs are without form, without structure or organization. The dull ones, in English that is to say in the Queen’s English. I prefer to compare them to dead dogs, if you follow me’. I sat there happily not to be an amorph and decided to start working out again all tasks, which of course was the intention of Mister Wall and to convey that, he only had to ridicule a few amorphs.


There were six amorphs together with their notebooks lying open on the right hand side of their table. Triumphantly, he held up a notebook. ‘Voila’, he said, ‘nothing!’ He looked into the classroom, ‘does anyone here see a solution on this blank sheet,.. a WORKED OUT .... solution ..?’  Nobody said anything, I suppose everyone was happy that the ignited wrath was not directed at them.’ No one?’ ‘We all have eyes and we see nothing in defense of ... these suckers ...? ‘ By the word suckers he smacked his cane swishing through the air and hit with military precision the table, between the hands of the amorphous. We rebounded all upright and a deathly quiet followed the shattering blast. Theatrically mister Wall turned to the class and with sweeping hand gesture he said, ‘here you have no friends, no one sees anything, you're alone’. The Godhead walked to the next amorphous. ‘And you’, he began, have you burnt midnight oil to complete my assignments? ‘No’, he roared, after  consulting the writing .. I can take you  to the well but I cannot make you drink ‘and he gave him one wag with his cane over his hand. ‘Ahh,’ roared the boy. There was now foam at the lips of our math teacher, ‘What,’ he said? ‘roaring at me?’ ‘I'll teach you to roar’ and he struck him with his cane again.

‘For those who later want to live out their lives in education,’ spoke Mister Wall,’ learn from me, always cane those that deserve it. ‘Now our last friend,’ said mister Wall, the rest will come at some other time. Show me your script boy !! ‘I have not got it with me, Mr. Wall, sir.’’ Not with me, not with me,’ whispered mister Wall, imitating him and then in his own controlled’ reserved voice he cried with exaltation, and almost split the table with his cane,’ it makes no sense to flog a dead horse.’ Today mister Wall would have been imprisoned or have spent his remaining life in a straitjacket but the time was not yet ripe for it and the authority was in the hand of the man with the cane.

The caning master had himself back under control, ‘the final chapter comparisons if you please’, he exclaimed, holding up his book. After a long explanation that almost broke the concentration of those who did not belong to the group of amorphs. He looked intently at us all, ‘I can not tell you anything more about this. Are there topic related questions that are forming in the mind  or perhaps already burning on your lips?’ ‘Mister Wall, sir’, I said. ‘Young Daniel nodded the caning master at me. Without failing respect and knowing that mathematics is a basic and essential mainstay for many disciplines, I have a question.’ ‘That's a good introduction, young Daniel’, said our mathematical and slapping ingenuity. ‘Speak!’ ‘I would like to know where these equations lead to, Mr. Wall, sir’. ‘That has a single utility young Daniel,’ replied the master with a smile,’ it increases your level of abstraction. Are there any more questions?’ ‘Again young Daniel?’ It sounded dangerously measured. ‘If you allow me mister Wall, sir. How can we increased our level of abstraction  putting the equations in the service of society?’


‘Ah,’ said mister Wall, ‘you refer to an example of application?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ I replied. ‘Are there more here present, dealing with the question that torments young Daniel and which he has expressed only in a second attempt?’ A few hesitant fingers went up. Mister Wall wrote our names down.’ I expect you in the big break at the main entrance next to the turret.’ The bell rang and Mr. Wall walked out with his head upright and his cane under the arm, away from the class.

It was noon and we were, as small group with a sandwich in hand, waiting at the main entrance. ‘Young Daniel,’ he began,’ how high is the tower?’’ I do not mean approximately but exactly !.’ ‘ I do not know, Mister Wall, sir,’ I said.’ Sir, you can omit outside school’, he said, with a smile. ‘Someone here who can relieve Daniel in his quest for the truth,’ he grinned? It remained silent .. ‘hmm pearls before swine’, he murmured, ‘why I teach at all is beyond me. Here is a pencil with a strong point, put that in between two tiles, press it into a joint.’ To a classmate he said, here is a ruler, measure the pencil from the base to get the heigth. ‘You, and he pointed at Don, ‘write down data.’’Who has now been given a better understanding about the length of the tower’. It remained silent. ‘Richard,’ he said, ‘here's a tape measure, measure the shadow cast by the pencil.’ ‘You understand men,’ he added, ‘that the angle of the sun on the pencil and the tower is the same?’

The penny dropped for me. ‘You will measure the shadow that the tower casts and compare it to the height of the pencil and its cast shadow.’ ‘That's almost right,’ said mister Wall, ‘you will measure the shadow of the tower and then calculate the only unknown in the height of the tower. It gives me joy that your abstraction level has been raised.’ After 10 minutes I was ready and Don reported the outcome.’It appears that the tower is 36 foot and 2 inches.’ Metricthat would be is 11 metres and 2 centimeters.’ Look,’ mister said Wall,’ mathematics gives us knowledge and power over things. This has been an application to difficult to measure objects. Next year you will be plagued with the graduating class with standing and running wavelengths, bellies and nodes where the sound waves meet and  go into interference, all related matters with unknown quantities, but which can be well calculated. But now it is time for my coffee, which increases my own concentration level. He walked solemnly away and left us behind, stunned.

‘Want to know something,’said, Richard, ‘we know something that nobody knows’.’What is that’, I asked? ‘Mister Wall is human.’

San Daniel 2014

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