Since I was first introduced to The Tracker, almost twenty years ago now, I've always wondered why I have spent more time reading stories written by humans than reading the stories made by animals on the landscape. Well, I ran across this post with that question in mind. This excerpt from it explains it well:
One reason for this is that these stories are composed of languages that are new and unfamiliar to me.
Written English is what I grew up with. I was a precocious reader, and a voracious one. Literacy has been my source of story and identity for a long time. Whatever activity I explore, I accompany it by reading a book about it. And there’s no shortage of books about spirituality, magic, primitive skills, tracking, fighting.
But maybe I’m too locked into English. This is human language, after all, and seeking stories in human language keeps me trapped in the human world, keeps me in a hall of mirrors where I’m just trying to find another human who has come up with a story for me. It keeps me blocked off from other sources of story.
This is the dilemma, though: that, having been locked into human language for so long, I’m illiterate in other forms. I can’t read the language of the birds or animal tracks or plant growth. I can’t read the clouds or the wind or the seasons. And, being unable to read them, they aren’t meaningful to me in a direct way.
So I end up relying on other people’s descriptions. When I read Tom Brown, Jr.’s The Tracker, like many other people, I was captivated by the stories he could tell about nature. When I took his Standard class, one morning, simply in passing, he told a story about the tracks he saw that morning, about the raccoons that had rummaged in the garbage and the coyote that had stopped on the ridge and then ran away because he saw someone. What I wanted, above all, was to experience that kind of meaning, to read the world the way I could read a book.
The problem, though, as many a linguist will tell you, is that languages are best learned when you’re young. When you’re older, it takes a lot more effort to become fluent. It’s taken me many hours of practice to begin to be fluent in pulse diagnosis, and it’s at least related to my chosen profession. Certainly there are people who haven’t had the opportunity in childhood but have now developed a passion for tracking and have become very good at it. But I don’t want to have to be passionate about something in order to extract meaning from it. I want that meaning to be easy as me picking up a book. But it’s not, and won’t be without plenty of practice. And practice requires motivation, and motivation requires, well, a reason, a purpose, a Myth.
Does it all lead back to stories and myth?