jusummerhayes

Language is everything

"When we are labouring up another counterintuitive, habit-violating semantic or phenomenological incline, dragging the ten ton stone of what passes for sanity in the West up the hill of habit and into the light of courteous inquiry where it belongs, I often offer this cool comfort: the language will not fail you. Think about how you think, I tell them, and talk about how you talk, and patient attention to the means by which you think and talk—the language—will serve you and the world you are desperate to care for. The language will not let you down." — Stephen Jenkinson, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble 

Good morning.

It feels slightly eerie this morning. I've no idea why, but the music, the foreboding that hangs heavy in the air and the fact that I don't really know what's in play, makes for a slightly unsettled and unsettling feel to my morning ritual. 

Of course, the rubric, like so many in my armoury, is self-evident.

Tell me something I don't know...

But in all seriousness, do we pay enough attention to the language — inner, outer and collectively?

I don't think so.

And this isn't some whimsical 'glass half empty' message. No this is serious ju-ju.

Listen to yourself?

Does it sound like you or someone else? I've often thought that if I spend enough time immersed in any number of the influential writers that have filled up my life (e.g. Thomas Merton, Stephen Jenkinson and Tom Peters), after not very long, I start to sound just like them. Is that a bad thing? I don't know. It might be but then again, in a few number of cases, I've been changed for the better. Isn't that amazing? To think that language can in and of itself change us...for the better (I hope).

Equally, when I find myself in silence or in full contemplative mode, my inner monologue (such that it is) is very different. Again, this isn't something I craft: it's bestowed on me by the Gods — or that's the best way I can describe things.

Collectively, though, I think we could all do a lot better. Social media is wonderful but one of its major weaknesses is that too often people write or say something that, in hindsight, is not just out of whack with who they truly are but it's too often said for effect and nothing more. Don't worry, I'm not about to saddle up my hobby horse of pet peeves. No, all I'm advocating for is a little less angst and little more thought about what effect you're trying to have — if any.

Oh, and one final thing. Don't forget the place and culture of your mother tongue. Mine is Anglo-Saxon — as my German work colleague continually reminds me — but I'd like to think it's suffused with some of the ancients of Devon before the Romans conquered us. I know, that's just fanciful thinking to imagine that I'm tethered to some long lost Celtic tribe, but place for me is very important. It wasn't when I was young, save hitting the bright lights of London, but the older I get the more I've come to love the relationship with the land and how that continues to shape my inner and outer linguistic sense of sensibility. 

Oops, I should also have said that my fascination with language extends now to the etymology of words much more so than their dead-end, dictionary meaning. I'm still understanding the craft, but I'd say it's almost spellbinding.

Anyhow, wherever you are in the world, may you have a peaceful, contemplative day. Even if that's not possible, if you dare, take a moment to ask yourself what it might look like to craft a different language to the one you've become so accustomed to hearing and reading.

Blessings, and much love.

Ju

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