Let’s play word-association?: When I “say” “communication” what’s the first thing you think of?
If it were me answering a week ago I would’ve said “words.” But after reading Aditi Brennan Kapil’s play “Love Person” and talking about the world it asks us to learn about (the deaf community, Deaf community, and ASL), I think I’d respond differently. Silly little me with so much to learn and me, as a hearing person, immediately connected communication to words, when they’re just .
Being a hearing person, I largely communicate with others using words, unlike members of the deaf community who may communicate with ASL – the language of movements of the hands, facial expressions, and postures of the body. (And, of course, ASL is not the only form of communication within the deaf community.)
Learning about ASL got me thinking about how ideas, feelings, and desires are transported non-verbally. An image sends a message — painters know this, as do advertisers, as do Instagrammers. A physical reaction communicates too — and the body will show the truest response, if uncontrolled by thought, like someone blushing with embarrassment or someone fidgeting with her hands for comfort. Dance will communicate all kinds of things as the Storytelling of the Body. UGH, DANCE IS INCREDIBLE!!! Not only is it the most visceral form of storytelling, but it also opens a space for communication with the “beyond” in multiple traditions. Smells communicate too: After traversing the entire U.S. to get to Tarzana, CA from Boston, I know I’m home when I breathe in that carpet-papaya-in-the-kitchen-and-mom’s-massage-therapy-oils smell. Touch sends and receives messages, as do taste and hearing. Music’s rhythms, beats, tempo, notes, and the infinite combinations of these send messages to the listener.
The thing with words is that they happen after the fact. A thought or action happens, then the word appears – to describe the thing that happened. Turns out words cannot live in the present, but always in the past or future. I’m striving to live before the word does. I want to live where the image is, where the body reacts, where the smell is inhaled and felt, where the touch is immediately felt, the thing is tasted and felt, and the music is heard and felt. These are presents.
It’s fascinating that people always find a way to communicate, to send messages and, hopefully, receive them. Ping pong isn’t played with one player.
But maybe we don’t find a way, maybe communication is innate. Maybe it’s the sine qua non of humanity.
Maybe it’s “I communicate, therefore I am.” Maybe thinking is just half of it.