Walking alone in the woods, I’m hardly aware of the cacophony of chatter in my mind . . . Ah, a new wildflower . . . deer tracks . . . clouds building to the east. I’m also processing the day before, or day ahead, or re-visiting past emotions that disturbed or delighted me. I’m a bubble floating within myself, while all around me, the world swirls with its own awareness and stories.
I’ve been reading Becoming Animal by David Abram. He links the interior chatter of verbal thought with the advent of silent reading – a fairly recent acquisition in man’s development. A tight neurological coupling arose in the brain between the visual focus and inner speech, he posits.
Frankly, I’ve never thought about the ability to hear the words in my head as I read them on the page. It’s only natural, right? Yet Abram relates that before the twelfth century in Europe, the written word had to be spoken out loud to make sense of it. Greek and Latin writing had no spaces between words and little guiding punctuation. Semitic writing had no vowels and had to be sounded out loud to hear the meaning. Starting in the seventh century, monks put spaces between each word as they copied texts, making it easier to read the words without having to sound them out.
I’ve thought about this in the novel I’m working on, “The Desk.” Amisha has fled San Francisco in 2088 to find the family homestead and the desk that’s haunted generations of family women. She has gouged out the chip implanted at birth in her neck – the only communication device humans should have or need. Her mind no longer filled with HumanaCorp’s constant messaging, she wanders in silence. Without a cloud of inner dialogue obscuring her awareness, she is drawn into the animate and inanimate world surrounding her. She becomes a listener.
“Our intelligence struggles to think its way out of the mirrored labyrinth, but the actual exit is to be found only by turning aside now and then, from the churning of thought, dropping beneath the spell of inner speech to listen into the wordless silence.” (David Abram, Becoming Animal).