Just a grouping of letters, really, and from them we create meaning. This, em, definition I suppose one could call it, or generally agreed on meaning, is not inherent, it is ascribed by a collection of people. A word or mere letter isn’t like the law of gravity, in that one may disagree on the existence of gravity all you want, but gravity will still be, it doesn’t need your belief for it to exist, a group of people do not need to get together to decide oh, let’s have something that makes you fall down. It doesn’t matter what grouping of letters you attribute to it, what you call it is up to you and your own language group that got together to attribute meaning to a particular grouping of letters, the law is still valid, in that you will still fall flat on your bum.
To some, letters are the end all and be all, and without them, one is thought to be of a lesser sort. Which is to say tribal cultures that have existed for thousands of years with stories passed down through an ancient oral tradition, creating as it rolls through the centuries a tableau vivant, capturing pieces of here and there, hims and hers, them and us, it found along the way, and this somehow is considered less.
Well, by some considered less. Scholars would say they are not a very advanced civilization if they don’t have writing.
“To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.”
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
Language is a collective, a tribe, a people. Language in its oral form is different from its written form, like a contained or domesticated thing, with the wild bits left dangling at the fringes, if present at all.
In that book by Abrams, he flips language onto its back and beautifully spreads it open for a delicate exploration of its, foundations, meanings, feelings, and how it has shaped our relationship to our very environment, been the vanguard, the canary in the coal mine of our disconnect from nature; or thinking we have with our writing of everything down and thinking we have captured the soul of it with letters.
“Human language, for us moderns, has swung in on itself, turning its back on the beings around us. Language is a human property, suitable only for communication with other persons. We talk to people; we do not speak to the ground underfoot. We’ve largely forgotten the incantatory and invocational use of speech as a way of bringing ourselves into deeper rapport with the beings around us, or of calling the living land into resonance with us. It is a power we still brush up against whenever we use our words to bless and to curse, or to charm someone we’re drawn to. But we wield such eloquence only to sway other people, and so we miss the greater magnetism, the gravitational power that lies within such speech. The beaver gliding across the pond, the fungus gripping a thick trunk, a boulder shattered by its tumble down a cliff or the rain splashing upon those granite fragments — we talk about such beings, the weather and the weathered stones, but we do not talk to them.”
[ IBID ]
Like I talk to Fred. We should do this more, talk to the ground, the trees outside your door, perhaps speak to the sky, thank it for its sunshine, its rain showers that last friggen 3 days, appreciate its very existence, and why not? With such reverence towards that which surrounds you, such belief in its significance, that thing that lies at the core, the ebb and flow, flux and anchor, yin and yang, called quantum, the in-between of all matter, the little strings that hold the universe together, called sometimes divine, sometimes glue, sometimes god, I call The Beauty.
Speak to it. Reach out and touch it.
At the fringe of an area of wild that lies close to the very core of London, there is this gigantic and ancient Oak that sits majestically on a rise, hidden, just at the spot where Adelaide Street would have continued, if those many years ago they had agreed to connect the north part of it to the south part. However, they didn’t. Why? Because of that tree.
The Meeting Tree
London’s oldest tree has surpassed its average lifespan — and with it — is keeping alive a part of the city’s racial history.
The 670-year-old white oak tree in south London is believed to have served as a meeting place during the mid-1800s for thousands of asylum seekers who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad.
The first time I found it, I had gone a different way, following a different path, this was back when I was married, in the early 90’s. We were exploring Westminister Ponds and had rounded a corner, and the path begins to go down a gentle dip, to our right you could just see the city through the trees, as it looked out onto Adelaide where it ends at Commissioners, yards and yards away across a meadow. As we reached this plateau all around us were Oaks, it is a grove, and there at its centre, its branches spread out like a hand, creating a natural circle on the ground underneath its shelter, and it felt holy.
I was walking on sacred ground.
The fact I have no sense of direction, as well as the tree being basically magic, I afterwards got lost every time I tried to go back, which is strange cause I usually don’t get lost in the woods. Now, I could zip line in from the netherworld, it is so imprinted on my soul, its location is forever etched.
Underneath it, there is a feeling of being within its embrace, and I walk tentatively towards it, and up through the soles of my shoes, up my legs, and into my being, I sense its tendrils, welcoming me.
This is the language of the sensuous for which Abram is enticing one with his words. A different conversation with the woods, the trees, the very elements of nature, and gravity.
So, when that tree falls there will be a sound.
“As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.”