‘Of course, for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.’
At the River Clarion, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver*
Gretchen McCulloch, in Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, writes of ‘co-speech‘ or ‘illustrative gesture,’ coined by linguists to describe the gesturing we do while speaking. She explains that gesturing is thought to be more about the speaker’s thinking than the understanding of the listener. In other words, the speaker is processing thought via bodily motion, rather than gesturing to ‘make a point’ for the listener’s benefit.
Although I had picked up the book curious to learn more about my students’ formative experiences as life-long consumers of online content, I became intrigued with the idea that our minds access language with the body, through movement, through gesture. Dances are often choreographed with a set of gestures at their core; expounded upon, returned to, and then modified, much like phrases in a musical score. We are ‘saying’ more than we know with our bodies. Dancers just do this on purpose, and to great good effect.
May we, as Mary Oliver invites us, whether dancing or slicing melons, live ‘gesture by gesture,’ mind with body.
*Heartfelt thanks to Alicia, who gave me this book as a 64th birthday present. How I cherish it, and Alicia.