The spirits are stopping us, he says. They’re stopping us. They’re jealous.
And then he says: they hold us still…still in time.
Hold us still/still in time — the same words that Barnacle used — and I said to him: Cambio, listen. This man here, the headman with the boy on his shoulders, he told me, with the same words, about your return to the Beginning. Except…I don’t speak Mayoruna — do you understand?
There was a silence. Maybe he spoke to you in the other language. The old language.
No. No. He didn’t speak to me. I think he spoke to me without words.
Yes. That is the old language. The old language of/
/Old language? What d’you mean? It comes from another time? I mean, how do you learn it? [undertone: I have so many questions…]
No. No, it’s not learned. It’s remembered. The old ones remember it over…
And he looks at me with a new-found respect that I should communicate like this.
The story is Loren McIntyre’s, as told by Theatre de Complicité (The Encounter) from a book by Petru Popescu. McIntyre was a National Geographic photojournalist who strayed in the Amazon forest in 1969 and stumbled on a hamlet of Mayoruna people. The people are in bad shape when he turns up, in retreat from civilization’s onslaught. He has nothing to offer and shares no common tongue with them, but they tolerate him, which saves his life.
In his plight, Loren finds himself communicating wordlessly with the hamlet’s shaman. A language of observation and emotion, not of interrogation or instruction.
Some of us are friends
The spirits are holding us still
We go back to the Beginning
As he learns later, it’s a language the locals all know of, whether they use it or not.
Notwithstanding science’s inability to bottle what it calls ‘telepathy’ – I think we all retain some crumbs of old language.
And when I see how adeptly animals, the other animals, manage and coordinate their affairs without external signals — especially when hunting or hunted, or raising young, or building a home or seasonally migrating — I wonder if they’re using old language too.
(Image courtesy: iStock/edsongrandisoli)