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A Language Older Than Words

Narrated by: Oni Woods Ojukwu
Length: 15 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

At once a beautifully poetic memoir and an exploration of the various ways we live in the world, A Language Older Than Words explains violence as a pathology that touches every aspect of our lives and indeed affects all aspects of life on Earth. This chronicle of a young man's drive to transcend domestic abuse offers a challenging look at our worldwide sense of community and how we can make things better.

©2000, 2004 Derrick Jensen (P)2019 Derrick Jensen

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Sickeningly Empathic

I’ve been hearing of the work of Derrick Jensen for the past decade. He’s hard to avoid if you run in nature connection circles. In 2012 I read “Deep Green Resistance,” edited by Jensen. In 2014, at the Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Kansas, this book was recommended to me. I’m now in a course with David Abram focused on the animate earth and human communication with the more-than-human-world. The title of this book might lead to believe that it is topical to such explorations, so I decided to finally give it a try.

Unlike the material of his contemporaries (David Abram, Charles Eisenstein, Martín Prechtel), this book is not the least bit eloquent; it is sickeningly blunt and raw. That said, it was written more than twenty years ago, and Jensen was a forerunner in many ways, so other authors have Jensen to thank for breaking the ice and giving them the space to iterate and polish some of his ideas.

Jensen retells the story of his abusive father, including graphic retellings of his own and his siblings molestation and rape. This material sets the tone for the entirety of the book. Jensen moves on to explore behaviorism and the experiments humans have perpetrated on plants and animals, ranging from the ignorant to the deranged and psychotic. I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but, coming to the end of my third decade in this life, I can say that I’m just barely old enough to be able to read a book like this. I would not recommend it for adolescence, as Jensen fails to ground any sense of positive potential in regard to the role that humans might have on this earth.

Jensen only gives a cursory overview of what “A Language Older Than Words” might look like. To him, this often means asking (in English), for his dogs to stop eating chickens—not the height of interspecies communication. One exception to this is his exploration of a field of science called “primary perception” referring to the ability of other lifeforms to be aware and responsive to the wellbeing of other life around them.