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Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

Misperceiving the World (p. 311)

From chapter "Death and Awakening"

There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of the earth, and it is the language of our bodies. It is the language of dreams, and of action. It is the language of meaning, and of metaphor. This language is not safe, as Jim Nollman said of metaphor, and to believe in its safety is to diminish the importance of the embodied. Metaphors are dangerous because if true they open us to our bodies, and thus to action, and because they slip— sometimes wordlessly, sometimes articulated—between the seen and unseen. This language of symbol is the umbilical cord that binds us to the beginning, to whatever is the source of who we are, where we come from, and where we return. To follow this language of metaphor is to trace words back to our bodies, back to the earth.

We suffer from misperceiving the world. We believe ourselves separated from each other and from all others by words and by thoughts. We believe—rationally, we think—that we are separated by rationality, and that to perceive the world “rationally” is to perceive the world as it is. But perceiving the world “as it is” is also to misperceive it entirely, to blind ourselves to an even greater body of truth.

The world is a great dream. No, not fleeting, evanescent, unreal, immaterial, less than. These words do not describe even our dreams of night. But alive, vivid, every moment present to and pregnant with meaning, speaking symbolically. To perceive the world as we perceive our dreams would be to more closely perceive it as it is. The sky is crying, from joy or grief I do not know. Waves in a wild river form bowbacked lovers and speak to me of union. Industrial civilization tears apart my insides.