Facts don’t care about your feelings, the hackneyed cliché goes. Most people probably don’t either; but at least some do or could. In any case people are appropriate subjects for that little verb, care, a verb whose applicability, they say, modern science has severely restricted. As it turns out, not only facts but most things—wooden dolls, jewels, chess-playing machines and all other manner of human contrivances, but also the moon, the rings of Saturn, volcanos and the weather—aren’t burdened with preferences, and so aren’t liable to care about the vicissitudes of any destiny, not to mention your feelings.
But people are liable to care, say, about your resentful seething, or your desperate pining, especially if they happen (or fail) to be their target. The deeds your feelings motivate may be something they suffer or enjoy, hence wish to avoid or bring about. This is the basis of conflict, but also of transaction. You can negotiate with people; they, too, are beset with feelings, which might make them care about yours (and so on). Such a dance requires, first of all, recognizing the outward signs of your counterpart’s desires, or what is called language. If it is true that you cannot haggle the clouds for some rain, it is not because they are so stubborn but because, free of want, they offer no invitation to this inaugural interpretive step, emit noise but do not speak.
But what counts as a sign, and how do you know that something isn’t one? Your inability to make out a message is no argument against its existence. It may well, after all, be written in a language you do not master. Nothing can definitively dispel the suspicion that we are not alone endowed with the divine gift, and the proliferation of tongues is a well-attested curse. The question is how far the babble reaches after all. Perhaps not much farther than we presume nowadays, but perhaps also it is found so generally—in the disposition of stars on a given night, of lines on a palm, of sheep’s viscera, of letters in the sentence Tú, que me lees, ¿estás seguro de entender mi lenguaje?—that it may as well be nowhere. Issue 6 of Tele- Magazine, Divination, has this most open of questions at its center.