The Efficacy of Words

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The truth is that the horror of being eaten outpaces the horror of death by any other means. Microbe, animal, another human: being consumed feels sharper, entirely visceral. But why?

Over at Guernica, Lance Richardson writes on Peter Gorman’s Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming, an ethnographic account of his experiences  in the Amazon. Richardson writes: “[Reading Gorman,] I discovered that plants like ayahuasca broaden the bands of our senses so that we see, hear, feel, touch, taste and sense things we can’t under ordinary circumstances.”

Richardson narrows his discussion to one particular event in Gorman’s book: almost being eaten alive. Richardson questions the efficacy of words in relating experience from one person to another, in broadening the bands of our senses, in relating the pure dread of being eaten alive.


Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →