Image by Brian Negus via Flickr
At bedtimes, we have been reading Michael Morpurgo’s tale of blindness and Arthurian legends, The Sleeping Sword. Isaac is fascinated by my half-remembered recounting of the tales of King Arthur, but he is less impressed with my account of the legendary king’s ontological status. He wants to know what Arthur looked like, where he lived and when.
‘Well,’ I say, ‘if he was a real person then he probably lived about fifteen hundred years ago…’
‘But was he a real person?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘But you must know.’
‘I don’t. I don’t know if there was such a person as King Arthur or not. Some people think there was, and some people think he was just a story.’
‘But someone must know.’
‘No. No one knows for sure.’
‘Does God know?’
I dodge this. I could imagine us having the same conversation about Him Upstairs. What intrigues me is Isaac’s conviction that, even if a particular individual doesn’t have access to all the facts, someone out there must do. There is a fact of any matter, and at least one individual who holds the key. It’s hard to imagine, but we might one day find incontrovertible proof of King Arthur’s existence (or otherwise). Then Isaac’s demand for definite knowledge will be met. Until then, there is Uncertainty: a great shifting intangible mass of it. It might frustrate his five-year-old mind, but it’s the kind of thrilling sense of being out of step with the facts that might, one day, make a scientist.