When There Are No Words

Have you ever stopped to think about the language of silence? Does it really have a language all its own? That may seem like a weird thing to ask. I invite you to consider communication without words.

It turns out there is a LOT written about it. Have you  noticed how being around people who have to fill every second  with sound makes you crave silence?

Sometimes, it seems to me that silence speaks way louder than any words. That meaningful glance across a crowded room.  A smile. A hug. Shared times when no words are needed:

Silence is not an absence of sound; it is the presence of meaning, writes JUG SURAIYA.
Two old men, friends of many years standing, would meet in each other’s house every day. They would sit in perfect silence for a couple of hours, then the visitor would get up and leave, without a word of farewell.
The inevitable happened and, in the natural course of things, one of the old men died. “You must miss him a lot,” said a condoler to the survivor. “I do,” replied the bereaved friend. “What I particularly miss are the long conversations we used to enjoy with each other.”

Communication is so much more than mere words.

Hold onto these thoughts as I take you on a journey into the world of silent communication.

Think about this for a moment. In a short excerpt from the book A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett there is a paragraph in which the author speculates about a strange friendship that had formed between a forlorn, lonely little girl, Sara, and Melchisedec, a rat, she had befriended :

How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand.    Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak without even making a sound to another soul. But whatsoever was the reason, the rat knew from that moment that he was safe – even though he was a rat…

Have you ever had such a connection? Maybe not with a rat, but some beloved pet.

Let’s take this concept of silent communication a little further.   This time we stop and have a brief glimpse into the language of plants. Scientists have discovered that trees talk to each other.   There is a network of interconnectedness that supports an amazing capacity for trees to communicate with each in times of danger, growth and healing.

Plants respond to the world around them  by the creation of extremely specific and  complex chemicals  which are interwoven feedback cues from the external world.  They are then released into the soil and air  as a form of communication filled with meanings.

A symbiotic relationship exists between plants and animals – communication of mutual benefit for defence, procreation and healing:

The closely intertwined feedback loops in plant communities automatically note when any member of the plant community is ill and the mycelial networks just under the surface of the soil transports necessary chemistries to them. Healthy plants connected to the mycelial network increase their production of whatever chemical is needed and send it to the mycelia for distribution.

There is a veritable ‘army’ of creatures that work to pollinate plants in response to chemical communications. Sometimes they are species unique.  There are at least 1,500 bird species, 15,000 wasp, 40,000 bee, 20,000 butterflies and moths, 14,000 flies, 200,000 beetles, 165 bats, and 300 other mammals that pollinate plants.  Many of them also use plants as medicine.

What is fascinating is that some plants seem to respond and adapt to specific healing needs. Chimpanzees infected by intestinal parasites will choose plants specific to the parasite which has infected them.  Consider this – Chimpanzees actively test Asphilia plants for activity by holding a leaf in their mouth for extended periods of time before deciding to pick it or go on to another. As they sit, allowing their VNO to analyze the chemical content of their chosen plant, in return, the plant, as it does with spider mites, analyzes the saliva of the chimpanzee. In a short period of time, the plant begins altering its chemical production to enhance the necessary chemicals needed by the chimpanzee for healing. How fascinating is that!

This network of interconnectedness  is beautifully illustrated in the movie, Avatar, when  Jake Sully and Neytiri visit the   sacred site where the Tree of Souls resides.

For our indigenous brothers and sisters world-wide, connectedness and communication with Nature is as important and real as breathing and life itself. Many who have grown in a culture founded on  logic and rationalism seem to have lost this aspect of being.  Interestingly, as western medicine struggles to manage and treat disease with chemically derived medicines, scientists are discovering more and more about the amazing healing qualities of plants and animals.

As the Jungian psychoanalyst James Hillman comments, the heart is the organ that “perceives the correspondences between the subtleties of consciousness and levels of being. . . it is concerned with the interpenetration of consciousness and world.” The heart has a natural capacity to find the eachness of things, to experience an intimacy with each particular event. The ancient Greeks called this capacity aithesis. Developing the capacity for aithesis allows the unique living essence that is present in all things to flow into the human through the organ of perception that is designed to receive it – the heart. 

I leave you to ponder this poem by Norbert Mayer –

Just now
A rock took fright
When it saw me
It escaped
By playing dead
©  Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace
♥ Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. Marcus Tullius Cicero
♥ To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man. Marcel Marceau

33 thoughts on “When There Are No Words

  1. There are far too many sounds around us today. Others have a mind that never turn off, though they speak no word, inside their is deafening noise. I am one who craves silence. Now that I live alone, I bathe in it, loving every moment available to me. This is a great posting Souls Gifts.

  2. Really enjoyed this, Raili. Have you come across icaros songs? They are said to be given to Peruvian shamans by the plants themselves and are used for healing purposes. Here’s an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJpRSFNodaU from a shaman who also has a farm that uses principles very like those used in permaculture.

    1. How fascinating, Safar! Thanks for the link. One of the articles I read when researching for this post talked of the close connection a lot of Indian shamans have with plants. I expect this hold true for all indigenous cultures.

      1. I think you are right. A long time ago I read something written by a hedge witch, where she talked about learning the secrets of plants through eating them while in a trance state. At the time she’d shared more about how she learned to do it, and also how she didn’t poison herself in the process!

      2. By chance, I joined an online conference of western shamans last night. It was an interesting discussion about cultural appropriation and also touched on learning from the land in one’s own environment before rushing off to the Amazon for the mysteries there. It was a very sensible discussion and what stood out was the absolute reverence for the wisdom of the plants they worked with.

  3. Beautiful post. My cat and I communicate through something other than words. In the middle of the night, he sits on me, nuzzles his head under my neck, purrs, and puts his paws around my neck. So no matter what kind of craziness happened between us during the day, at night, it’s my cat’s way to say “peace out.”

  4. Yes. Silence is nice, Raili. And what you’ve said about animals is very true. I had a cat friend once that I named Frobisher. He would always run away when I first spoke to him, no matter how gently. One day, I sat on a rockery as he was milling about, and I just left him to it. I didn’t say a word. He approached me and allowed me to tickle him. Then I *knew* that I could speak to him, but he had to allow it first.
    And the painting by Munch, ‘The Scream’, did you know that it is about the silence of nature and not an actual scream? Perspective makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

  5. LOVE the poem. And totally agree about the silence. It can be especially so as when his nibs and I sit in our respective chairs in the living room, one of us reading, the other on the laptop. We don’t need to say a word, but there is such connection in being silent together…

  6. Such an insightful and meaningful article Raili. My Carole lost her speech badly at very beginning of her MS, But over the next 30 years, I understood her every bit of silence.

  7. Great post Raili! I agree!
    I have loved ancient wisdom and alternative medicine for years and I find myself chuckling when the science world finally catches up. And then the corporate world has to find ways of exploiting healing.
    I had read that about plants recently too. Amazing creation 🙂
    One thing that profoundly effected me years ago, was in the book of Job, the part where his friends come to visit after hearing about his losses. When they see him, they are shocked at how bad things are. So they just sit with him for something like 8 days, and no one said anything because they saw how great his suffering was. I LOVE that!

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