By Bobby Neal Winters
In the beginning was the Word.
Nature has a language.
It’s a subtle language uttered in whispers; it is a coarse language uttered in screams. It comes in not only through the ear, but also through the eye, the nose, the tongue, and the skin. It is in a baby’s cry, a lover’s body, or a gust of wind.
We are surrounded.
Consider body language. We use it all the time, but often we don’t take it in on a conscious level. We walk away we impressions of things left unsaid.
In my job, I talk to a lot of students. In groups, of course, but also on a one-to-one basis. I interview students in order to help them to discern whether the major I advise is the correct route for them. I’ve a lot of young people. I sometimes think that I’ve learned how to tell someone is lying to me. When I first took on the advisement job, I would go home at the end of some days exhausted and I didn’t know why because all I’d done all day was listen.
I eventually figured out that I wasn’t just listening with my ears; I was paying attention to a lot of body language. The extent of this became clear to me when I was sent a student from another department who I was told had “no affect.” I’ve never studied psychology, so I didn’t know what that meant. When the student arrived, I learned.
I would say something and look in her face. There was no response. I made a joke. There was no response. At the end of the interview, I was exhausted. Everything I had tossed out, verbal and nonverbal, had been sucked into the black-hole of no affect.
It’s not just people who have body language. I think that I could get most people to agree that our pets have body language. When I take walks, I often come upon dogs who are not on leashes. This is illegal, but it happens. Most of the time, I can tell if the dog is going to be friendly. I can speak a little dog body language. I can speak enough cat to know when they want out.
At night the dogs speak to the trains who whistle going by and the fire trucks as they scream through the night. They’re hungry for the conversation of the wild.
I am enough of a country boy to know that this works with cattle, horses, and some wild animals as well. And why shouldn’t it. We are a part of nature. We were created or we evolved (try to explain the difference between those two) as a part of nature’s system. It works.
As a part of nature, we are equipped to speak nature’s language, though we have insulated ourselves from it so much that we are no longer fluent in our mother tongue.
But it’s still there. Women produce pheromones. They’ve been shown to cause the monthly cycles of women in a group to synchronize. Women’s bodies have secret conversations with each others for reasons long forgotten.
Consider the effect that the curves and nooks and dents and bumps on the bodies of the opposite sex have upon the physiology of our own bodies. The heart quickens; our breathing changes; our thoughts perturbed from our day jobs. Nature speaks and it has a task for us.
Some of us who grew up before the days of modern weather forecasting still know nature’s signs for rain and storm. Nature speaks in a million languages and we’ve forgotten most of them.
An eye to the sky has been replaced by the numbers on a computer screen. We can read the satellite picture, but it’s getting harder to feel the rain in our noses before it comes.
Charles Wesley penned, “O for a thousand tongues to sing.” I would plead for us to have our ears back so we can hear what we are being told and for the quietness to hear it.