Empathy is the language we mammals use to communicate with one another, before the strange ways we bend meaning into words and arguments. When you think about words and animals, words suddenly seem like a strange arrogance we humans use to draw a line. Like our species’ VIP rope so we can sit up here by ourselves. Words can be a strange form of dominance. We have this emotional hotline of the body, but use words to cordon ourselves off even from other humans. We pretend we are different from people who come from other cultures, or speak different languages.
Dance hops the rope of language. When I watch dance, or a good visual storyteller, I feel it faster than I can make words to describe it. Watching dance, there’s a string of communications that I really can’t take in with words-- it’s not about words. There is something that even the most beautifully crafted, carefully chosen words can’t do that lives in the realm of gestural communication. The line gesture has into us is faster, more immediate, and more directly connected to our deep animal understanding of each other. Empathy is experienced through gesture. We reflexively talk with our hands--it’s like an emotional subtext I give you to show you what I really mean as I say this string of clumsy verbs and nouns.
Listening and watching are as closely linked as the head and the heart.