Novel by Christina Carson
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Quote from Suffer the Little Children:
"Perhaps what we call misfortune is actually a place where the universe interrupts our habits that keep life so limited and small, forcing us to respond differently. The opportunity it offers depends on how hard we work to close the gap or hold it open, allowing ourselves to glimpse realities we've never glimpsed before."
Novel by Christina Carson
Quote from Dying to Know:
"I knew in that moment, we were never meant to surrender our childlike innocence, to trade a world in which we fit like a glove for one that hung on us like ill-fitting hand-me-downs. However, all about us insisted on our membership. And instead of a handshake or a mystical password as entrance into this spurious society, we agreed instead to share a lie, the one that says we’re safe, secure, and fulfilled living this way."
This may seem a strange blog title given I’m an author, especially when one of the joys of my life is marveling at how cleverly master writers can include us in their experiences and explanations of life.
What I'm not inclined to do, however, is make the dubious leap to the conclusion that our language somehow grants us special status on the genealogy charts of living creatures. So when I read this course introduction in The Great Courses’ catalog, you know me, I had to say something:
Language not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries.
John McWhorter, PhD.
Before we go any further, I would like to clarify. There is no intended defamation of The Great Courses or Professor McWhorter. The courses are an excellent opportunity to further your knowledge of all manner of areas of study through the outstanding complement of the best teachers most of us will ever hear. Their courses merely reflect our current world view, and it is with that that I am taking exception. So let’s get back to my tirade.
Like anyone who has spent a great deal of time with animals, I became suspect years ago that the order of things was not how I’d been taught. My first teacher was a Komondor, a huge, prehistoric-looking livestock guard dog breed off the high plains of Hungary. She carried in her blood the knowledge of how to protect sheep (and most anything else) from wolves, bears, and coyotes. She kept us in the sheep breeding business, and she kept us in line, for, among other things, she knew she was the expert in sheep protection. And though she tolerated our rules, she never capitulated to them.
I loved this dog deeply, and it was she who made it clear to me that I was the weak link in our communication. She could easily read my thoughts-not the words, for pete’s sake - but the sensations they conjured in her instinctual world. How did I know this? By watching her next choice of action, which would always be a logical extension of my thoughts. Thanks to her, I stopped anthropomorphizing animals, realizing how arrogant an act it is. To make everything in our own image and likeness is precisely what we were told NOT to do.
Even with a modicum of observation skills, as we live intimately among other species, we begin to realize with awe how much can be “said” without words, and even more important, how that sort of exchange is NEVER open to misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Let me repeat that: never open to misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Where would our species be if our talking and writing were never open to misinterpretation or misunderstanding?
I have spent over forty years, so far, working to be a more proficient receptor of the information that zings through our world in forms other than words. Animals are in touch with it and can connect with each other across vast reaches of space and, I suspect, time. And for those people, who have advanced their ability to remain in the Silence, let them tell you of the beauty, nay, miraculous experience that utter stillness offers, as well as its facility to feed into other modes of communication with the world.
I will say this, though, Dr. McWhorter is correct in one thing, how beguiling our ability to talk is, so much so that it practically owns us and separates us, like an overly-protective mother, from a world far more exciting than it would ever be threatening. Spend some “quiet time” with your dog, cat or horse and see who envies whom.