Last week I took The Spell of the Sensuous out of the library again. There’s just so much food for thought in there, you can’t digest it all in one reading. I want to revisit the whole section about how language and knowledge are inextricably woven into the landscape for many indigenous tribes. There seems to be something very important in this. Inner and outer worlds have always been unified—to indigenous tribes this is obvious, in the modern world it’s been forgotten.
…to members of a non-writing culture, places are never just passive settings. Remember that in oral cultures the human eyes and ears have not yet shifted their synaesthetic participation from the animate surroundings to the written word. Particular mountains, canyons, streams, boulder-strewn fields, or groves of trees have not yet lost the expressive potency and dynamism with which they spontaneously present themselves to the senses. A particular place in the land is never, for an oral culture, just a passive or inert setting for the human events that occur there. It is an active participant in those occurrences. Indeed, by virtue of its underlying and enveloping presence, the place may even be felt to be the source, the primary power that expresses itself through the various events that unfold there.