There are many ways to “know” the world. When I was a child, my knowing was mostly framed through the boundaries my parents provided, the haunting silence of the hills of the Palouse, the warmth of the friends I held close to my heart, and the tiny Presbyterian church community who provided me with prayers and belonging through which I peeked out at the world.
But also I knew through words: both reading and writing. I wrote poetry and journaled prayers and hopes and grievances. I memorized the Psalms and wise words of Jesus. Those words, both found and shared, are still important to who I am today.
Words are a way of knowing the world, ourselves, and sharing what matters. But, for me, and I suspect for many, these structures of knowing are only one fabric of the quilt of knowing
Buried within these folds of knowing was a deeper way of experiencing the world. The smell of my mother’s lipstick when she kissed me, my dog’s wet nose or the burr I dug out of his coat, the layered sunsets which burned across harvested hills, the moist shavings of cabbage that fell into the crock to make sauerkraut, the “whiskering” of my dad rubbing his beard-shadowed face across mine.
I am thinking about this because I am in a job which requires a lot of understanding from me. Some of my audience are word people and it is critical that I use exact words so that I open and close the right doors.
I am also aware that learning and learners are not all word people. And in fact sometimes other ways of knowing are just as important, potentially even moreso.
About a week ago I spoke for an event. I sang a song as part of the framing of it. Several asked me for a recording of it and expressed how meaningful it was to the overall conversation. Others wanted words in their hands or for me to read the lyric to them. My guess is that the combination of music and word is one of the most powerful forms of communication.
Art can speak. Music speaks. Dance and drama has it’s own word as well and can teach better than the most incisive orator. There are many ways to crack open our hearts and enter into the things that matter in the world. To be the most effective, I want my work to be multi-sensory: words, music, drama, visual, tactile, smelly.
We so easily operate out of one type of knowing, assuming others are the same. If we are to ignite movements, encourage inclusion and create memory, I commit to be open to all of our senses; to push the boundaries of convention for conversation and change to happen. I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I am ready to explore. How about you?