“The words we use shape how we understand ourselves, how we interpret the world, how we treat others. Words make worlds.”
- Krista Tippett, Founder – On Being
After the initial `How are you doing?’, the next question we are often asked during this phase has been, `Are things going back to normal…(in your building/at your work/in your region/in your state/in your country)?
The latter half of the second question, can be substituted with several contexts, based on who we are on the phone with, and where each of us is located.
Now, this question is an extremely important one. Before I share with you why I feel this question is an important one, I wish to take you through an ongoing reflection I have been engaged in, about language and humanity’s relationship with it.
Language Vs Voice:
Like in several other species, language is one of the important ways through which we communicate, explore, engage, learn, interact – whether it is while having a conversation, narrating an incident, sharing about oneself, passing on wisdom, building relationships, solving issues, talking about our past or history of our ancestors who gave birth to our families/our tribes/our culture/our countries and in learning about everything and every being from whom this earth evolved – and so, the list of places/situations/areas in which language plays a crucial role, feels infinite. Which is also why some of the most hurtful or painful emotions we experience, almost always involve words that – break our hearts, damage our souls, destroy our spirit, and kill our inner being in those moments. And when we feel on top of the world, by being heard, held, supported, wanted, belonged, it’s often the language of our loved ones that restore that very heart, soul, spirit and inner being to its full self.
However it is important to be aware, that while language is available as a way to communicate to most humans and even to several non-humans, we need to also be aware of an important nuance, which is:
Is the voice that speaks the language whether it is from the human world or non-human world, heard equally, held equally, engaged equally in the realm of the human world?
The answer is simply, `No, not yet’.
In the way most of our societies/systems/expressions are currently designed, not only does human language take priority over everything non-human, even within humanity itself, only some sections of the society are heard. And then, there are also those human beings, who are physically/mentally challenged to use this medium, and rely on other forms of communication which are non-verbal, and we also haven’t as yet designed our systems or societies to hear/hold/engage them equally through their form of communication. In other words, our systems are still largely designed to acknowledge just human language and within that, a section of voices. Our circles, our campfire discussions, do not include all, who are as much a part of this earth.
Therefore holding this awareness, holding this reality, holding this understanding, holding this deep inner knowing is then crucial, for those of us, whose voice is partially, reasonably or fully heard. We carry a multi-layered responsibility when we respond to questions, when we speak on issues, when we converse with our loved ones, when we name what is happening within and without, no matter what the context.
Since the voice of the whole isn’t yet heard and has so far been excluded/avoided/ignored/unseen, we as those parts of the whole can use our language and voice, to accelerate the shift necessary to move our families, our societies, our communities, our workplaces from belonging to ‘specific humans’ centred expressions/systems, to `all Life’ centered expressions/systems. We can start this with the very simple questions that this pandemic is asking of us individually, and can then collectively get to the larger questions that the rest of the whole is asking of us to answer.
And by doing so, we can begin the work of returning those spaces around the campfire, that is of the whole, that we took away, consciously or unconsciously.
How can we move towards such ‘all Life’ centered expressions/systems?
Let us use the example of the question I brought up in the beginning, but this time round, let us hold the above understanding:
Are things going back to normal…(in your building/at your work/in your region/in your state/in your country)?
If normal here refers to what our societies/systems were, just before the lockdown (let us for this discussion say, last ten years), an essential part could be to start by introspecting and reflecting on these two questions:
- What parts do we wish, goes back to normal?
- What parts we needn’t rush into going back to normal, till we deeply examine, reflect, discuss, understand, but this time keeping everyone who is part of that whole in mind?
These are not easy questions, for any of us. They cannot be. We cannot expect that of them either. Many conscious holders of our societies have brought our attention to such questions in many ways, in many forms, now and for generations.
So, here is what has been coming up for me, as I reflect on the two questions through this piece:
What parts do I wish goes back to normal?
- I truly wish for all of us to be able to go back to being with our loved ones, extended families, friends, the place/s we belong to, if we have been separated from it.
- I wish for people to go back to earning their basic livelihood that has been challenged for months now. For them to be able to feed, shelter and nourish their families.
- I wish for children to go back to those schools, colleges, universities who are nourishing them, as their growing and learning depends on these bonds.
- I wish that all of them engaged in conscious societal changes, whose work and progress in those areas has been challenged, go back and restore the momentum that’s needed to bring about the change.
- I wish that those who need wellness care, and haven’t had easy access to it, can go back to receiving it soon.
- I wish that those who are suffering from Covid, get timely help, support and heal, so they can go back to leading their lives with their loved ones, or on their own, as was nourishing for them.
- I wish that systems in our societies that support its members physically, mentally, emotionally and financially in nourishing ways, go back to doing so.
- I wish the Keepers of other living beings and resources on this earth, can go back to the work they are doing to ensure we restore/guard/revere, what is, and cannot be lost.
What parts need introspection, examination, reflection, enquiry, before deciding whether it needs to go back to normal, or certainly needs a conversation/dialogue/discussion on change? I have shared them as questions, so together we can reflect on them:
- Whose voices have we ignored that over a period of time has led to this physical, emotional, mental, environmental, spiritual crisis?
- What systems small and big within our families, within our communities, within our societies, within our states, within our countries, and within globally connected systems, need to question the values, the ethos, the purpose, and what collectively they bring into the world hereon?
- If humans only make up for 0.01% of the total life on Earth, how then are we ensuring that the remaining 99.99% of living beings who are not only a part of the earth, not only have been there longer than us, but also continue to nourish us, are, hereon fully seen, acknowledged, heard and held by all of us?
- And within the 0.01% of our species, if we are not seeing/acknowledging/hearing to the words/language of over five thousand groups of Indigenous Peoples across the world; not fully listening to the 15% of the human population who are physically/mentally challenged; have hardly given voice to the economically challenged; left out certain races; gender; the elderly; immigrants; and several other so-called ‘minorities’, then, do we wish to go back to this normal?
- If we do decide to go back, how about truly going way, way, back to connect with that ancient wisdom, that once enriched our cultures, where what was held in value wasn’t money/economic status, but our qualities of being, and borrow that to inform our current systems, and adapt it our current needs and conditions?
- And if we still decide to only go back to what was normal in recent years, what are the consequences likely to be? How do we pause to examine this, from all perspectives?
These are the thoughts and questions I invite us to collectively reflect and add onto, if anything else important is missing.
So, off late, when I am asked such a question, if I have answered it rather casually or in a complaining way, there is a voice within me, that taps on my soul and asks, `why were you so casual in answering this? Are you in a rush for normal? Did you pay attention to the words you are using? What do you wish to see as change? Did your language/voice reflect that?’
I am slowly starting to hold this awareness around my voice and language, so my words can move towards the larger whole. I also tell myself –Anjan, It is okay to make mistakes as we won’t be able to align, feel and express them consciously, right away. But it is not okay anymore, to not know, to not be aware, to not be alert to catch ourselves when we err, and instead to ignore, avoid, and not take responsibility for it.
In sharing the above, I now wish to invite you to take part in this discussion, through your experiences, your understanding, your reflections, your observations and your learning, if you too have been introspecting back to normal in any form, as well as hearing about what you feel about language and voice in its wholeness.
My intention through this piece is to not leave anybody unseen when it comes to language and voice, nor to take away from other non-verbal ways of communication. It is to start to become aware of one, so we can translate it to all
Thank you for reading.
Look forward to your insights and expansion of this.
Celebrates and connects all Life as
Writer | Custodian of Circles | Biomimicry Professional