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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Breaking the Language Barrier

Yesterday I had interesting exchange on Facebook with an old friend. She said she wanted to leave these comments here, but she's not on Blogger and didn't know how. She was referring to some of the entries about Bow and Megan. Here is some of what she had to say:

Not suggesting that Bow is anxious, just that he might sometimes want to or need to return to a more "natural" state for a primate and not have to talk. Sometimes I need that too. A friend around which you can just hang out and you don't have to work to make conversation.

I explained that Bow can go  for hours without talking to me, too. He isn't required to constantly talk. But as far as his motives for remaining silent with Megan, I replied as follows: "We're all primates, so... I don't think that's the issue. It has more to do, I think, with social isolation and breaking into a relationship. It happens this way with every new volunteer until Bow accepts them as a member of the family. He just won't talk to strangers."

At this point my friend said something that really got me to thinking: "Good for him. He will cuddle with them but not talk to them. So physical intimacy is less scary than mental intimacy."

 Wow! That's true, isn't it? Unexpected but true. We often think of cuddling as being more intimate than talking.  But is it? Then why is it we find it easier to cuddle with someone who is non-verbal? Isn't it easy to cuddle a baby or a dog? Doesn't it become harder once it is someone who can talk and express an opinion?

As adult human beings in this society, we can't just go up to a stranger and cuddle, but we are allowed to talk. Talking opens the way to other, more physical relationships with adults, but if you fail the talking test, then you never get to cuddle with that person! Not in a million years!

Language can be a form of intimacy, but it can also be a barrier.  Language is seen as a test of intelligence, but it is also a test  of group affiliation. Would you cuddle with your dog, if you knew what he was really thinking?  I've had the experience of being a stranger in a strange land a number of times in my life, when I didn't speak the language of the people around me. It prevented me from speaking my mind, but it also made people act nicer to me. Until  they know what you really think, people tend be warmer and more accepting!

The easy intimacy of two beings who share a tactile relationship but no words can be deceptive.  You never really know someone until you have experienced him verbally! Which means that the real test of Bow and Megan's relationship is just now beginning!

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