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Instinct: A Forgotten Language?

I read #TheAlchemist (I know, long overdue) last summer and was struck by Paulo’s lucid explanations of certain “invisible” concepts like a common “language” we speak (or should know how to speak) he refers to repeatedly.

Today, I just wanted to throw out there the idea that instinct is a language we can relearn and see if anything comes of it.

Paolo Coelho said, “because people become fascinated with pictures and words, they wind up forgetting the language of the world.” According to him, the language of the world is unspoken, but understood by all. The Language of the World is a language without words that helps us create connections with all beings, by understanding them beyond language and cultural barriers — it’s instinct. In our modern society, we have forgotten this language — well, some of us. To listen to our instinct is to become more attentive and aware of the surroundings, to develop a sensitivity that allows us to perceive others.

Quick Example

I went crab hunting in rice fields with children in Cambodia last April. I could not believe the courage of these children as they put their whole arm in the ground, looking for crabs. A snake hissed its path away from us and they laughed as they ran away from it. I squinted and asked one of the older children as she was putting her arm in the ground, “how can you be sure there’s no snake in there!?”, and she shrugged and simply said “I just know.”

It seems that Paolo Coelho’s right. The children in Cambodia have a habit of listening intently to their instincts because they are not as fascinated with pictures and words, and they have not forgotten the Language of the World. After all, as Paolo Coelho said, “if you can learn to understand this language without words, you can learn to understand the world.”


  1. Does this mean that the more developed and sophisticated our communication methods become, the more likely we are to forget the Language of the World? Think about it, in Switzerland for example, we are proactively warned in case of — not even danger — but a high probability of danger. We are used to pay attention to signs and alerts (pictures and words), and look for that kind of information outside of ourselves.

  2. How do we relearn the language? Do we move away from pictures and words? Is this what happens in Yoga? Meditation practices?

In the book The Alchemist, the boy travels from Spain to Egypt, and realizes along the way that he can make connections between encounters in Spain and encounters in Egypt. He develops a sensitivity being in contact with different beings, in different situations.

In sum, Paolo Coelho’s take on it would probably be to come into contact with environments that don’t transcript to your language and known cultural queues.

What are your thoughts on this? How many countries have you traveled to? Has that changed you? Do you follow your instincts often? Never? I mean, what’s the use of instinct in our world really?

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