A plea to a “savage” tribe

I will also teach you how to write screenplays that we can sell to the major studios.

Dear Pirahã Person,

I am sorry that I do not know your name, although I know tiny a bit about your  Amazon tribe.  Glad you’re learning to write.

I have visited your rainforest  and I must say I found it darn dangerous, what with spiders the size of flapjacks and snakes large enough to swallow a VW.

(Invented by Hitler, the VW uses an internal combustion engine.  These engines spew out poisons faster than your dwindling rainforest has been able neutralize them.)

I sense we may be getting into trouble with our communications because I am talking about the past and using subordinate clauses.  Apparently you Pirahãs don’t do subordinate clauses or deal with past or future tenses.

Neither are you able to count, nor do you have any words for colors.

Until your tribe came to light most scientists, who studied language, assumed that all humans had the ability to gossip about the past and employ subordinate clauses.

You fellows simply live in the present.

This is the  reason I am writing to you.

I need immediate help with my wife, Kate.

I want you to teach us to live like you.

You see, Kate and I (especially Kate) spend far too much time bickering.

If we could live like you we would have nothing to argue about because we could not discuss the past number of times I have failed.  (No past tense?  Beautiful!  Never again could Kate say, “you put the white stuff with the colored stuff in the washing machine, idiot!)

In addition, your ability to think outside the color spectrum is going to be life altering for us.  When you teach my wife how not to think in colors, I will experience heaven on earth. No more:  “Stupid, blue and brown don’t go together. Let me get you some clothes that match.”

Please, I beg you, Pirahã Person, come to Hollywood.  Teach us to be like you. I will pay for your plane ticket and find a place for you to live under the leaves behind our home.

I will also teach you how to write screenplays that we can sell to the major studios.

Screenplays will be a snap for you because stage directions are always in the present tense.

Wonderful Pirahã Person, I look forward to hearing from you.

Your new friend,


PS — if you can’t come to Hollywood, I will arrange to send my wife there to live with your tribe for awhile.  OK?

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Jaron Summers wrote dozens of primetime television and radio programs, including those for HBO, CBS, ACCESS TV and CBC. He conceived the TV and Film Institute of Canada. Funded by the University of Alberta and ITV, Jaron ran the Institute for 12 years, donating his services for a decade.

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