This lovely video, produced by Everynone for Radiolab, has been doing the rounds on Twitter, so you may already have seen it. It bears repeat viewing, I think. It’s about words and also about our common humanity. I find it moving.
Serendipity is a lovely word and a lovely concept. Shortly after watching the Words video, I came across Robert Kelly’s poem Towards the Day of Liberation:
It doesn’t matter what we see there
(the mouth is full of sense no taste in listening no sense to hear what twists in the shallow water below the tongue) (and if he says Listen! say Drink the hearing with your own ears, a word is not to hear) Language? To use language for the sake of communication is like using a forest of ancient trees to make paper towels and cardboard boxes from all those years the wind and crows danced in the up of its slow. A word is not to hear and not to say – what is a word? The Catechism begins: Who made you? Language made me. Why did It make you? It made me to confuse the branch with the wind. Why that? To hide the root. Where is the root? It lies beneath the tongue. Speak it. It lies beneath the speech. Is it a word? A word is the shadow of a body passing. Whose body is that? The shadow’s own.
“Towards the Day of Liberation” from Not This Island Music by Robert Kelly. Used by permission of the author and of Black Sparrow Books, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc. Copyright © 1987 by Robert Kelly.
With thanks to NovaLanguages for pointing me to Robert Kelly’s poetry (of which I wasn’t able to maintain the original line spacing, for some reason).
By Marian Dougan