This is the story of Pam and John; she in her early 50’s and John is 62. Pam is a college professor. John taught at a local community college until diagnosed with Parkinson’s in March 2008, then Lewy Body Dementia in April.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

communication without words

I attended a conference on environmental ethics this weekend. This morning I heard a talk on “Nature’s Voice and Human Flourishing: The Possibilities of Ecological Democracy” by Roger S. Gottlieb. Gottlieb wants to imagine a democracy that includes participation by non-human life, and so he spoke about how we can communicated with other living things even though we can't argue with them. He had a phrase I liked and thought I had written down, but I don't find it in my notes. It was something about how we communicate by aligning ourselves with the other. It struck me as an important seed for me, to think about communicating without words. Trying to imagine what it would be like to be John doesn't get me very far, because I would react so differently if I were in his situation. But I'm beginning to develop my sense of what he would want.

Update: I got a copy of the paper. The word is "attunement." He writes:

An “ecological” democracy would require that we learn to pay attention to what nature is saying to us: both by awareness of scientific knowledge and by a personal and collective process of attunement to plants, animals, and even ecosystems. By analogy this may not be totally unlike the attunement required for communicating with the severely handicapped, partnering with domesticated animals, or practicing truly sustainable agriculture. It may remind us of what political justice would look like between cultures so essentially different that they could not argue for their own interests in terms the other could understand.

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