Very young children are actually able to hear all the sounds in all the world’s languages before they begin to learn their own language. Even the most subtle and complex sounds are available to them. Their ears and minds can recognize those differences. But once language-learning begins, their listening becomes increasingly specialized, and their ability to form those sounds also becomes increasingly specialized. For example, a child becoming fluent in English will no longer find it easy to discern some of the complex sounds of Chinese. Young children who are learning Chinese as their native language will soon find it very difficult to hear the ‘r’ of English—yet studies document that they could hear this sound before language learning began.
As with a sensitivity to all language, maybe when we are very young, we still have access to hearing what I am calling ‘death’; maybe when we are children, death is in every instance of experience, amplifying it. But as we grow up, it may, like language ability, become imperceivable, or inaccessible, as ‘life’ begins to fill with the more concrete meanings of our day to day lives.
Does the heightened state of attention that is writing offer a way to listen for the sensory input of death, if I can let myself ignore the barriers that my mind has created around that word, that concept, that amplitude?