Poetic Language: When The Heart Speaks

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Text HOME to Skip to main content. I hear you, I am listening Every word exiting your mouth, your soul, your very being I hear you But hearing is much different than understanding. Although I hear you and I am not understanding the words you are saying, they speak to me They say only music can transcend language Everyone can dance to the beat and feel the rythm. Even if you can't understand, you can still feel.

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But, what if you felt that way about languages? What if instead of telling people to speak English because they are 'in America' We felt? We felt their words. How they are spoken. How they use their tone. People are so closed Closed minded to the art that is language. Brought to you by Curio , an Aeon partner. Edited by Marina Benjamin. Language is an excellent way to understand the Universe, because language springs from the things it describes. Words have soul, he said. They possess a vitality that mirrors the inner life of the world, and this connection is the source of their power.

All forms of language implicitly deploy it. Poets are arguably more alert to it because they consciously seek it out.

“The land was ours before we were the land’s.”

Language meant that things could be explained and that plans and past experiences could be shared efficiently. Such metaphors add colour to life but are essentially fanciful and inventive and, further, often lead to erroneous inferences about reality — say, that the wind is a spirit or the mountain a god.

It comes out of often misguided human brains. The working hypothesis goes something like this: early human beings, or perhaps our evolutionary cousins, began pointing at bananas or lions, and grunting. Suddenly, the brain rewired. It allowed for a shift from the deployment of a few signs to the heady artfulness of speech and grammar. It facilitated language proper, which could now emerge along with its many solution-solving, survival-aiding, practical advantages.

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It was like giving the mind a Swiss Army knife, says another champion of these evolutionary explanations, the Canadian-American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct Now the developing human brain began to make fanciful leaps from the words it had invented for physical objects. It began using them to name the less tangible feelings of its mind and, in so doing, to manufacture immaterial, spiritual realities. The fancifulness of this phase is a key part of the grunt theory, which generally assumes that early humans were wildly superstitious and so made all sorts of mistakes about the nature of reality.

They thought that winds were spirits, or mountains gods, and they are assumed to have been bonded together through these daydreams and delusions, which, often enough, helped them to survive. Finally — the theory continues — came literature, when words were redeployed solely to express the interior worlds of human beings. This is the most dramatic instance we know of that exceptional phenomenon, consciousness, which somehow emerged out of an otherwise nonconscious cosmos.

It should be said that many of the details of the pathway tracked by this kind of evolution of language are contested, with some who work in the area quietly admitting that, in truth, the origins of language remain as mysterious as the origins of life. The grunt hypothesis, or something like it, rules.

poetic language when the heart speaks Manual

T he Romantic theory of language suggests an alternative pathway. Science would thus work not because it is true but because it provides a technological society with a common discourse that facilitates social bonding and survival-aiding byproducts. In short, if language deludes, science would be strewn with delusions, too. Or to put it another way, the grunt theory saws off the branch it sits on. In his work as a philologist, Barfield discovered that words, so far as they can be traced back, never pointed to physical things alone or acted as arbitrary symbols. They always seem to have had both physical and inner meanings, and to have had an aboriginal poetic charge.

Thinkers as different as the American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and the British utilitarian Jeremy Bentham took similar note. Pneuma is an example of an old word that originally had an immaterial and material meaning. Today, it has two distinct meanings. It refers to a physical organ, akin to a pump, housed a little on the left side of the chest cavity. Only, the evidence points in the opposite direction. The felt meaning is as old as the word itself because, in ancient use, the heart is not regarded as a pump but as the seat of the emotions. If metaphors were mere fancies of the individual brain, how could they have possibly caught on?

Plenty of evidence, therefore, implies that the evolution of language moves in the opposite direction to the grunt hypothesis. Inner meanings were there from the start.

Now, such counterevidence can also be challenged. But a further reason for rejecting the grunt hypothesis can push back further. It arises from considering the nature of metaphor, and the obvious observation that there is no point in having a simile or metaphor that is suggestive only to you. This is to say that if metaphors were, originally, mere fancies of the individual brain, and therefore chaotic and idiosyncratic, how could they have possibly caught on? Therefore, metaphors must work because they raise inner life to conscious awareness by innovatively combining meanings that release the innate poetry of words, and the world.

His metaphor works if you know what the morning is and what a russet mantle is, and can mentally put the two together in a meaningful way. The combination prompts what was half-known but, previously, not fully thought. He reveals something about the inside of the morning that previously lurked in the shadows, undisclosed. The two must have been born together. If this is so, then it implies that the origins of language are not rooted in grunt and sign references to objects. Instead, early words always were loaded with the inner and outer meanings that our ancestors detected in nature and consciously articulated when they first started to speak.

They are the tokens of a prehistoric communion.

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The poles of meaning only subsequently split apart, when our very much more recent ancestors, on the cusp of a modern, scientific consciousness, stopped experiencing the world in the natural way, and imposed the modern dualism. A n alternative theory of the evolution of language is required.

click As the English palaeobiologist Simon Conway Morris writes in The Runes of Evolution , the dominant explanations for the origins of language are inadequate for the very reason that they are essentially utilitarian and materialistic. It would be better to assume what language itself tells us. It is innately meaningful because its poetry enables us to perceive deeper structures of reality.

Words channel the vitality of the natural world. They have soul because nature does — for all that, these days, we struggle to feel it and are quite inclined to disbelieve it. It is a recognition of this loss that has led the English writer Robert Macfarlane on a project to rescue words. Again, the details are unsettled and disputed. But overall, it probably looks something like what the American sociologist Robert Bellah in Religion in Human Evolution called the offline theory.


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They had to forage, fight, flee and procreate. They played, as many other animals do. Or they engaged in rituals and making music, which all the evidence suggests they did prolifically.