Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 55: The Hindrance of Language

I went to a self-awareness circle in town tonight where, among other things, we went through a guided meditation. It was the first time I have ever meditated with the intention of meditating with other people in the room, and it was certainly a unique, dazing experience. After the meditation, we went around the circle and described maybe what was seen or felt or the experience as a whole. When it came to my turn, I could barely find the words, as though language had abandoned me. It would have been much simpler to hold my heart out in cupped hands for everyone in that room to understand than to form sentences of description. In the moment, language deserted me, and trying to use it was inadequate to the experience.

And I thought about all the other times language becomes a hindrance.

Sometimes when emotions are so strong that the words get stuck in the throat, both happiness and sadness, where the body is encased in the moment of emotion rather than the analysis and synthesis of words. When you try to use words in the dissection of the feeling, the emotion doesn't always come back.

There are times when I have met people who speak different languages than my native English. I have never met someone who speaks absolutely no English though, something I really wish to do. But I have met people who have English as their second or third language, making English awkward to speak, unable to share the true thought in their head. I watched a film that has no narration. The footage is from all over the world and the viewer is invited to simply watch and absorb the differences and similarities between people thousands of kilometers away. It is called Baraka - Blessing, where images are all that is needed to share our world.

Then there is the language of science. In large publications, this language tends again to be English, with some smaller journals in other languages. But how sad would it be to say that English is the language of science. Even to say that Latin was once the language of science is incorrect. The language of science is discovery and curiosity and observation. When you are out doing field work, it is not the language that is of interest to the field biologist, it is the observation of a behaviour or a bloom or some sort of change. The first thought is amazement! Amazed that you are seeing something new, even if it is not new to the rest of the world, in that moment, the discovery is your own. When scientists gather to share their research, language is used as a tool to explain the specific observations. But I would argue that the honest language of the gathering is the passion for the discovery, the shared passion for the curious new things found in the world. Science transcends language. It is so easy to get lost in the jargon of the field, to learn the language of a microbiologist, an ornithologist, a paleontologist. And it is this jargon that then creates the chasm between the scientist and everyone else, not in that specific field. But, if the passion of the observation is shared instead, everyone can understand because that feeling is universal, beyond language.

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