As some of you may know, for some time now I have had the opportunity to learn sign language, both here at the Y and back in high school. It has set me thinking a good deal lately about communication - and so I share with you those wonderings.
One often hears person-to-person communication difficulties referenced by a specific name: the Language Barrier. It occurs when two people are attempting to talk and neither understands very much (or anything at all) of what the other person is trying say. These two people could stand there and yell the words in each others faces until the cows come home, and still neither would have the least idea what the other was trying to communicate.
I don't particularly like that phrase. It seems to me that if it's simply a matter of two people not understanding one another, I've seen enough couples (married and not) dealing with that problem who aren't speaking different languages at all. And as for those of us who do speak different languages, there's a special kind of Magic there that can make those barriers turn trasparent, as though they had never been at all.
That Magic, I believe, is what most people would call Humanity - those thing that make us people know matter who we are. There are ideas and beliefs and hopes and griefs and dreams and sorrows and loves that simply cannot be stopped by the Language barrier. They go straight through, and bring some of the rest of the thoughts and feelings in behind that we couldn't communicate before.
I can sign with a Deaf person - even from another country - who doesn't speak a word of my first language, and we can discover commonalities between ourselves we wouldn't have known otherwise. I can share a smile with someone in Italy or China or Finland, and there will be no question as to what it means. I can I can stand beneath the Weeping Rock at Zions or on the highest point of a mountain top, surrounded by people from countries all around the world, speaking all kinds of tongues beyond my understanding - but we can stand side by side, looking at the marvels of nature, and wonder together.
I had a really neat experience with this a couple days ago. There is a girl in my ward who hails from South America, a first-language Spanish speaker. She speaks very good English, but when we gather for ward choir to sing what I consider to be a well-known hymn, she sometimes has trouble putting it into the English words instead of the Spanish she is familiar with. She has a remarkable ear for notes and tone, and in fact has never learned to read music, relying upon simply hearing the notes to learn them. I, on the other hand, speak fluent English and not a word of Spanish, and can hardly pick out anything aside from the melody without music in front of my face.
We got to talking about our favorite songs. She said that she had been Primary Music Director back in her home stake, and there was one song that she had always loved. "What is it?" I asked. She did not know the title in Spanish, so she began to sing it:
Yo siento su amor
En la naturaleza
Amore del Salvador
Que en ti bia el corazon...
After the first line, I took up the tune as well:
I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me
His spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see....
And then together:
Yo siempre lo seguire
Mi vida le dare...
He knows I will follow him
Give all my life to him...
Pues siento Su amor
Que me infunde calma.
I feel my Savior's love
The love he freely gives me.
I can't accurately show you what it felt like in words, but it was easily one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced - two women, two voices, singing in unison, each in her native tongue, praising the Savior together. It reminded me that Heavenly Father hears us all, no matter what language we sing or speak or pray in. Joan of Arc was accused of heresy for saying as much - no one would believe her when she claimed that when the Lord spoke to her, He spoke not in Latin but in French, her native tongue. He hears all languages and understands every one - none is better than another.
This a beautiful kind of Magic all its own, which is at anyone's fingertips - anyone with an open heart and a willing mind. Anyone can do it, and the world desperately needs it.It's called Love, and Patience, and Understanding, and Peace and Tolerance and Friendship - or, in other words, pure undefiled Humanity. And if used at its best, it is the kind of magic that will approach any barrier - language, culture, or otherwise - and make it vanish for good.
'Til next time...