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Most people, even orators and actors, have peculiar conceptions, not to say misconceptions, of action as a language.
One proof of this is found in the fact that the word “gesture,” which names the least important of all phases of action, is the common name applied by most people to all the expressive movements, attitudes and bearings of the body
The ordinary person has about as clear an impression of what pantomimic expression means as the little girl who was asked to define the word
chivalry ” and said it was what she felt when she was cold.
To me action is man's first language and the one primarily concerned in the revelation of character. Action, however, is a subject as difficult to discuss as it is to understand. It can never be explained and taught as other subjects.
John Stuart Mill said that one who knows but a single language is apt to take words for things. This principle applies more to the primary modes of man's expression, words, tones and action as different languages, than to Italian and French. If to think an idea in French as well as English frees a man from confusing an idea with its symbol and gives him a better understanding of truth, how much more will ability to realize the function of voice modulations and of the action of the body lead to a more adequate realization? Action as a language is more distinct in function and
meaning from words than English is from French, or French is from German. To be able to think the language of action prevents taking a mere word or symbol of an idea as a complete expression. If this be true, to understand pantomime is one of the important phases of education. Action, however, is totally neglected at the present time. One reason for this neglect is the difficulty of understanding the subject or of even realizing its point of view. It has been so long regarded as of no importance, as only a kind of decorative adjunct without meaning, that it is difficult to awaken people to think in action, or to recognize it as having a great function in the revelation of human experience.
A realization of our action is necessarily a realization of the motives of our lives. It helps us, to understand our fellow-men and to enter into sympathetic touch with them. Not without reason does action usually have dramatic as the qualifying adjective.
In this little book I have endeavored to talk simply with the reader on something that has always been a necessary part of himself, something that he must practise every hour, not to say every moment of his life,-something we all practise, most of us thoughtlessly, even chaotically.
Some readers may object to the disconnected character of the book, but right or wrong, the intention has been to drop only a hint here and there. The subject is too large for exhaustive treatment. The peculiar nature of the subject also prevents its adequate treatment in words. A mere intimation to stimulate observation of self and others seems almost the only method of discussing it. What is said in the book is less im