The people of the Fifth World don’t think like their ancestors.

The diversity of the people of the Fifth World makes it difficult to speak about them generally, since almost anything one can say will have many exceptions. Rather, the most important things to say about them as a group speak not to things they really have in common nearly so much as those points where they differ from their domesticated ancestors, even on points that might once have seemed like simple “human nature.”

Because they believe their unaided animal senses, they perceive the world unfolding in a constant process of revelation, engagement, and relationship, always changing and shifting. Many languages in the Fifth World changed to noun less and verb more, drawing their attention to the dance more than the dancers. They began to understand their primary occupation as the work of creation itself: to constantly renegotiate their place in an ever-renewing, more-than-human world.

Mothers carry their babies with them always, so the children become used to the rhythm of daily life. Before they learn to speak, babies become attentive to body language and the subtle, nuanced movements and tensing of muscles that express emotion and disposition. To an untrained, alien eye, such people might seem to communicate telepathically, but of course they don’t. They merely have a lifetime of close, tactile contact, keen awareness, and a synaesthetic experience of the sensuous world. Communities sleep together and touch each other constantly when they speak, turning language into another layer of communication built only on top of a more elemental and tactile one. Such empathy extends to other-than-human kin as well. Trackers must learn the art of drawing close to an animal, including learning its language, not only to recognize its songs, calls, and cries, but to mimic them and even, by combining the two, to speak with them.

Raised in such a more-than-human community, the people of the Fifth World develop a self-confidence that might seem bizarre to their ancestors. They trust in their feelings as much as they trust their eyes and ears, as perceptions of the world around them. They have the confidence to embark on even the most perilous quests, to pursue even the most trifling whims. Such strength and confidence emerge from love and support the same way that a strong tree grows out of good soil and fresh water. To survive beyond civilization, the people of the Fifth World needed to become strong and confident again. Those who didn’t simply did not survive.

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