This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
In the preceding chapter we have seen how person differs from person, more in mental constitution and content than in physical makeup. Therefore, when one mind touches another there is a change in both which may be likened to the chemical reaction between two different elements. Or, to go back to the analogy of the corn, it is only through the oft-renewed cross-fertilization of mind by mind that the fruitage of human thought can develop. A babe suckled by a wolf, as in the myth of Romulus, and reared among brutes like Mowgli in Kipling's Jungle Book, might grow to the stature of a man, but he would be only a brute.
It is not necessary, however, to depend on myths altogether to give us examples of what men would be without communication. A week of solitude will give anyone some realization of it; perhaps even twenty-four hours will be enough. Accounts of pioneer life emphasize the hospitality of the pioneers; any human being was welcome, and there was no waiting for introductions.
I know a man who spent a winter alone m a northern lumber camp. 'After he had been there about three months without seeing a human being, he chanced to speak to himself out loud. He was frightened at the sound of his own voice, for he found that he was forgetting how to talk. He then began to talk to himself, and in that way saved himself from "falling into an abnormal state."
Deaf persons are also mutes unless special care is taken to develop the power of speech or to keep it if already developed; a deaf-mute without special training is little more than an idiot. The case of Helen Keller shows how the mind is awakened when communication is established.
In our neighborhood is a boy who became totally deaf in his fourth year. The deafness resulted from scarlet fever and came on gradually. The doctor told his mother to tell him that after a while he would not be able to hear. His reply was, "Then I'll be like Mr. S. and Mr. J. You'll have to talk real loud, won't you?" The first summer he continued to talk about the things he had already learned to know by name, but after that he gradually forgot these words and resorted to signs. For the past two years he has been going to school to the department for the deaf. At first he was very diffident and did not try to speak at all. Now he talks and reads in school, but still uses signs in communicating with his playmates. He will make gestures and guttural sounds until he attracts their attention; then when they respond his face lights up with pleasure. He delights in jokes, and reads from the expression on the faces of his companions how they take a joke from him.
The reason he does not talk to his playmates but uses signs and gestures instead is partly because they do not talk to him but make their wishes known to him by signs and gestures. Then, too, there are many persons whose movement of the lips he is unable to read.
Solitary persons sometimes talk much to animals, plants, and other natural objects about them, or else "talk to themselves." Really, however, they are carrying on conversation; the second party may not be present in any material form, but only in recollection or imagination. A teacher who was reading to the school from Thoreau stopped to remark, "This nature-lover, when out in the woods, thinks of civilization." The first or only child in a family often has an imaginary playmate.
Ideal society is a drama enacted exclusively in the imagination. Its personages are all mythical, beginning with that brave protagonist who calls himself I and speaks all the soliloquies. - Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. II, p. 140.
I have never had an imaginary companion as there were five of us children at home all the time; I had enough real companions without having to imagine any. But one of the girls in the neighborhood was an only child and lived with her mother and grandmother. Her mother was a very quiet little woman who read a great deal, and her grandmother was very old. Her imaginary companion was a girl about two years older whom she called Margaret and described as a very pretty girl with soft golden curls and beautiful blue eyes. This description was almost exactly like that of a character in a series of books which the girl was reading, although the name was different. She would sit for hours talking to Margaret and be perfectly happy. We always thought she was queer, but now I understand the reason for it.
Occasionally a child who has child associates has also an imaginary one. This must be because the real associates do not satisfy; there is craving for communication with a type of personality which is not present in reality, and the imagination is strong enough to supply the lack. In private devotions, when they are fervent, the same cause must be present.
I remember as a child sitting in the parlor alone entertaining myself with an imaginary caller for hours at a time. She was generally a married woman whose husband was a railroad man gone on a trip, and we had come together to talk over family troubles. I used to serve tea to my caller, making up some remarkable recipes. This lady had a definite appearance, my ideal of a pretty woman. I called her Mrs. Rothschild because I wanted her to be wealthy.
Even now that I am grown up I like to be alone. Whenever I am going on a journey or walk alone I usually imagine some one with me. I told this to my teacher in the eighth grade and she laughed at me and said people would think me insane. But I firmly believe my disposition has been helped by this invisible companion; it has made me happier.
When composing a letter I always imagine that the person to whom I am writing is sitting before me. A regular visit, I call it. It often does me as much good as if I had been with my friend a couple of hours. I enjoy letter-writing immensely.
Silent communication may also be carried on in literature. As a child I idealized Longfellow. He was a great large grandfather to me. Whenever I heard or read his poems I could almost feel his big arms about me. In reading a book I prefer one without pictures. I always make up pictures of my own which sometimes "jar" with those printed in the book.