Updated: Jul 16, 2019
The spoken word converts individual knowledge into mutual knowledge, and there is no way back once you've gone over that cliff (126).
Words are a constant source of frustration for me. I find them limiting, at times intolerably so. I have a thought and then fumble in speaking it. I am much more at home in somatic relating: allowing energy to speak for itself and listening on a deeper level. Yet at the same time, I am fascinated by spoken language and its connection to tribal/pack functioning and communication of abstract thought. Or, as Fowler puts it, 'the conversion of individual knowledge into mutual knowledge.' This is a huge concept, and one that can be unpacked on multiple levels, depending on what type of 'knowledge' we're talking about.
What do I 'know' on an animal level? When I consider the term 'animal level,' it feels like I'm referencing spirit, which connects all phenomena in the sacred web of being, as well as all aspects of my 'self.' The knowing shows up as somatic experience, shared by feeling with another and less in speaking. I think perhaps we handicap ourselves by relying too much on the spoken word in communicating our deepest knowing.
In the novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Rosemary (a human child) and Fern (an adopted chimp) create mutual knowing through their embodied relationship. They transmit and receive communications that deal with complex emotions such as grief, deceit and shame. Even though Fern was taught to sign, I don't think that Rosemary needed her to sign in order to understand her.
In studying languages academically, I always felt internal pushback when a professor would assert that language was an exclusive feature of human socialization. I think that perhaps humans justify the dominator model via the notion of language exclusivity; one more way in which hierarchy severs us from spirit. I believe that language is a surface feature of true communication, and one that only barely scratches the surface of what we know. It might even be argued that what we know individually is actually collective knowledge, which might be too bitter a pill to swallow for those indoctrinated into oppressive cultural archetypes.
Fowler, Karen. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. 2014.