“We do not, as children, first enter into language by consciously studying the formalities of syntax and grammar or by memorizing the dictionary definition of words, but rather by actively making sounds – by crying in pain and laughing in joy, by squealing and babbling and playfully mimicking the surrounding soundscape, gradually entering through such mimicry into specific melodies of the local language, our resonant bodies slowly coming to echo the inflections and accents common to our locale and community.

“We thus learn out native language not mentally but bodily. We appropriate new words and phrases first through their expressive tonality and texture, through the way they feel in the mouth or roll of the tongue, and it is this direct, felt significance – the taste of a word or phrase, the way it influences or modulates the body – that provides the fertile, polyvalent source for all the more refined and rarefied meanings which that term may come to have for us.” David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Learning and creating languages is an interesting intellectual pursuit, but I think there’s more depth to it than that, something I’ve discovered in my exposure to other languages. The idea being that language goes back to our primal roots, through cries, grunts, murmurs, screams. The calls of animals we hear in the wild places are the primal matrix from which languages evolved, like the first light sensitive cell on a microorganism that eventually became an eye.

Our first experience of language acquisition is instinctive, not intellectual; it is something experienced by the body, and from there our learning of language is built up. Looking through a dictionary we might be mistaken that language is a purely intellectual pursuit, something “raised above” our instincts, and that translation between languages is just a logical pursuit of matching meanings of the words and/or parallel grammatical approaches.

Perhaps this is the reason I never learnt French in school (despite 6 years of learning), because the formal approach in a school doesn’t resonate emotionally or instinctively with us; it doesn’t access the roots of language. It’s well known that emersion in a language is the best way to learn, and that’s certainly the case with me: I’ve learnt more French and Spanish since living with them.

Sometimes I say something in Spanish, not because I know intellectually that it is correct, but because I have a gut feeling that some words or phrases are correct. I think even if I make mistakes in another language (or my own even) it is understood because I am learning to speak from a “gut feeling” level and am understood at the same level. The flow of the words (or even their non-flow) can communicate more than the words themselves.

I think even the written word, though supposedly abstracted from our bodies, can have an effect on us. Going back to gut instinct, we can get a feeling for the words on a page, not just their dictionary meanings. So much has been done so that our experience of the body is distrusted, and I think that use of language has a lot to do with it. If we trust the sensations of the body through our languages a whole new level of communication is accessible.

“Gaia can regulate without the need for foresight or planning by the biota. The regulation is entirely automatic.” James Lovelock

“Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right.” Piglet in Winnie-the-Pooh

“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.” Roberto Assagioli

Once upon a time our animal ancestors had an automatic and unconscious balancing system between internal instinct and external environment, there was no need to think about it. This also meant that we had our place in the universe, a context and meaning, which was an innate part of us which didn’t need thinking about.

The meaning of life is automatic for most plants and animals, no thought required, they have an organic initiation into the mysteries of the universe. But humans are no longer so automatic, we have minds that need to find a meaningful place in the universe because it is not automatically given to us through our genes or environments. Instead we require a cultural initiation, one that involves the abstract creativity of the human mind, making definitions and values that weren’t there before.

This has been a creative leap forward for us, with so many great arts and sciences that have moved us into new ways of living that our instincts alone cannot create. Unfortunately this also means we can no longer have a care-free existence, we are no longer automatically regulated by nature’s processes, instead we have to regulate ourselves. This lack of self-regulation is shown in our abuse of our environment, polluting and destroying it, which in turn changes the environment’s balancing system to our disadvantage.

We have to create our own balance, we cannot use our societies or governments to do that because who guides them? Each individual should learn its own balance and creativity. And if we rely on Earth to balance us, well, at the moment she’s reacting very badly to our imbalance and trying to dislodge us. If we want to survive we have to take our own balance into each and every individuals hands.

Once upon a time I was into the Taoist philosophy which to me was about “going with the flow.” The idea I read about was a bit anti-intellectual. It saw the human condition as marred because instead of letting things be organic and “flowing” the intellect would set up false definitions and “deform” the Uncarved Block, a concept used to describe things in their original nature before they were tampered with.

In some ways we do need to learn to “go with the flow” at least as far as nature is concerned. It is something that needs no guidance. As James Lovelocks quote above says, Gaia is an entirely self-regulating sysem, it’s too big for us to take the responsibility of running it. In Nature, there is a natural flow and rhythm to things which industrial humanity has tried to struggle against and take short cuts through, much to the detriment of the earth’s life, which includes humans.

What I don’t want to “go with the flow” with is the aspect of humanity that disturbs humanities place on earth and sends it into ecological disaster. Flowing with any society with a mindless herd mentality means being flooded in the Inner Space in “service” of its external pressures. My self-meaning, self-motivation and inner context can be hijacked by the flow of society, which itself is unconscious and with a materialistic view that humans live to work, to earn money, to buy stuff and the earth is premanufactured consumer stuff. This time I’ve got to be focussed and use my intellect to discriminate what flow I should “flow with” before I’m in carried away unconsciously by forces that I want nothing to do with.

Earth does not need regulating, but its humans need regulating. By what? The earth’s changes would kill us off, and the “higher powers” of human society aren’t always the most ethical choice for guidance. So then, we have to regulate ourselves, which brings the quote from Robert Assagioli into focus, that we can only look inside ourselves, at our own powers and learn to develop them in harmony with Gaia before we destroy ourselves with them. The tragic thing is that the Earth may change so much that humans may no longer be able to participate in the Earth’s evolution, we may become extinct, though life here will still carry on in some form without us.

Now one challenge remains for us, which is, are we as a species so stupid that we ruin the chance for future generations to continue participating in the evolution of Gaia, expressing humanities unique place in it? For me I have hope that humanity can be intelligient enough to continue existing. I am optimistic enough that humanity can change its ways, because to be proved wrong doesn’t bear thinking about.

Here’s an article from http://www.global-mindshift.org that has provided me with much inspiration for this blog; http://www.global-mindshift.org/discover/viewFile.asp?resourceID=224&formatID=252