Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Communicating By Gesture

F W Boreham tells this story about the essence of communication:

One Universal Language
There is only one really universal language. It was spoken in the world's first morning, and people will still be speaking it when they are startled by the shocks of doom. The little child speaks it before she is able to lisp one single word of our clumsier dictionary speech; and the aged speak it long after the palsied lip has lost its utterance.

Common to All Cultures
It is known in every latitude. 'I used to think,' says Hugh Cairncross, in the course of one of his travel-stories, 'I used to think that, in order to invade successfully all the out-of-the-way corners of the globe, it would be necessary for me to master a score of languages. I soon discovered my mistake. I have made my way up the Amazon, up theYangtse, up the Ganges, up the Danube, and up the Nile; I have moved among pigmies in the African jungles, among Red Indians beside the Canadian lakes, among South Sea Islanders in the Pacific, among the Eskimos in the frozen North, and among all the European and Asiatic peoples; yet I know nothing of their languages save a smattering that, in spite of myself, I have picked up in the course of my gipsyings among them. My experiences have taught me that there is a wondrous magic in the skilful use of gesture. What cannot be said by the movements of one's muscles, the manipulation of one's fingers and the expressions of one's face is not worth saying.'

Mr. Cairncross declares that there is no outlandish spot on earth, however barbaric, which he could not enter with the certainty of being able to make himself immediately intelligible to the natives by means of gesture.

Divine Communication
Is it any wonder, then, that when, in the fulness of time, God had something to say that God would have all people understand, God’s expression comes, not in Hebrew or Greek or Latin, but in this one universal speech? God adopted a striking and dramatic gesture.

Source: This is the opening to F W Boreham’s essay, ‘Beau Geste’, The Passing of John Broadbanks (London: The Epworth Press, 1936), 235-244.

Image: Get the Message?