Monday, November 19, 2012

A Toast! To the Subtlety of Words and Love

I've been contemplating my interactions with others lately--mostly as relates to language. A couple weeks ago I had a conversation about the Bible with a parent at Max's school. He abruptly ended the conversation pointing his finger at me and saying very forcibly, "No! Because you don't know. You don't know." I realized in the moment that his refusal to continue the conversation, which was quite pleasant up until the last 6 minutes, had to do with simple word choice. I had referred to Biblical accounts as cuentos or "stories". This greatly upset him. I discovered, a bit late, that I was supposed to use the word historias, which also means "stories" in English. He left, red in the face, completely appalled.

These sort of interactions have happened in my native language as well. It's usually a combination of the two parties coming from entirely different places and with different intentions. Surely, you can relate on some level to this kind of misunderstanding, painful and common as they are. I hope, for the sake of unity, that you were able to detach from outcomes and discover a point of mutual understanding in these instances. As we all strive for this kind of sensitivity and love, I wanted to share my favorite poem with each of you.

The Language of There
by Roger White

"I mean to learn,
in the language of where I am going,
barely enough to ask for food and love."
--James Merrill

Yes. There, light will be our language,
a tongue without words for
perhaps, or arid, or futile,
though shadow be retained
that we may contrast the radiance.
Almost will no longer be a measure.

We will learn a hundred synonyms for certitude,
and love will have a thousand conjugations.
Ours will be the italicized vocabulary
of delectable astonishments.
The possessive case will play no part
in the grammar of joy and burgeoning,
infants will speak at birth, and only the ancients
will remember the obscenity of exile

There, laughter will be spelt in capitals,
sadness grow obsolete,
and negation be declared archaic.
Hell will be pronounced remoteness,
and vast tomes will be devoted
to the derivations of yes.
Where all is elation and surprise
exclamation points will fall into disuse.

There, food and affection will be ours for a smile,
and immortality for a fluent, knowing wink.
In time, our desire to speak will abandon us.
All that need be said the light will say. Yes.


  1. Yeah, we can all get along, I mean as long as you believe in some kind of higher power, right?

    1. As far as I know, all that "higher power" stuff you speak of is about faith. Last time I checked, faith is like trust. I'm falling backwards trusting you'll catch me, though I have no solid proof that you will. I have faith in you, who you are and what you'll do when you see me falling. That's all I have control over. And, quite frankly, I couldn't handle much more responsibility than that. Who am I to judge anyone else? And when I do, "because I'm a hypocrite just like you" (Akrobatik), it's also on me to manage that.
      Incidentally, I sure like you a whole lot, Samuel. ;) And even though our approach to the world is often quite similar, we have pretty different ideas about the whys and hows of it.
      (Note that the symbol used by my belief system isn't represented on that bumper sticker either. And I think the basic message aims way too low, but that's another discussion.)

    2. I'd call that a reasonable inference rather than faith. After all, your inference that I'd catch you is based on your knowledge of our relationship (and probably whether we were currently engaged in some bitter sibling battle of our youth). Point being, were you planning on falling in front of me (or anyone else) you would examine the evidence you had and then, finding that evidence sufficient, would infer that I would catch you. Faith would be you deciding to fall after either considering no evidence or doing so and finding it insufficient.
      I sure like you a lot too Becky, but I think you already inferred that :) Think you'd could house me for a early April visit?

    3. Early April sounds fab-o. I'll leave it to you to trust---err, infer that we'll be there to pick you up at the airport.
      (In case the other sibling mentioned his trip to you, we promise not to use the same rental car company again. :))