Saturday, September 7, 2013

Willy the Sparrow sums up academic education

So here is another cult scene from the collective Hungarian childhood.

The cartoon is called Vili a Veréb (Willy the Sparrow, not to be confused with Sparrows of other names). At the beginning of the story the Sparrow Fairy (not to be confused with her friend the Cat Fairy, for example) turns a boy named Vili into a sparrow as a punishment for shooting at sparrows from his window on his sick day off school. After the family cat chases him off the windowsill and out into the wilderness of an urban park, Vili is left to the good will of other (natural) sparrows to learn to survive, fly, avoid cats, get rid of lice, visit the horse race tracks, and other vital parts of bird life. An old and wise sparrow called Cipur takes him under his wings (quite literally) and offers to teach him all he needs to know. In exchange, he wants something only Vili possesses: the knowledge to read. Cipur collects shredded pieces of paper with letters on them, hoping to become more like humans by learning to decipher them on his own.
In the scene where Vili first attempts to demonstrate the skill of reading to his old mentor, the shredded piece reads as follows:

"Empirio-criticism, also called Machism, is a subjective idealist philosophical trend opposed to materialism, denying the existence of the material world independent of the human mind and..." Vili glances up "... the rest is torn off."

Cipur stares at him in awe and wonder:

"You can understand that?!"

Vili shurgs.

"Heck no. But I can read it."

For people like me who grew up watching this cartoon over and over again, this quote became the quintessential description of life in academia. Also, now we all know the first half of the definition of Machism. Philosophy degree, here I come.

(Full movie in Hungarian on the link above. Sadly, no English translation yet.)

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