Where did we go wrong?
We have invented words, we called those language, then we invented so many different languages that stop us from understanding each other.
We communicated by drums, smoke signals and homing pigeons, at times misinterpreting the signs and symbols, often waging wars due to a misunderstanding.
We chiseled symbols, pictures, letters and words on large stones, came up with the written language, painstakingly wrote manuscripts that preserved our cultural heritage, books, scrolls, letters, archives, libraries, hard drives, servers, all storing our written pieces of knowledge, art, science, literature, our communication tools, our words.
It all boils down to words, putting letters together, small puzzles that we assemble to express ourselves. To others, to ourselves, to the world, to no one in particular (a new concept called the blog), to our tribe (facebook), to our potential fan club (twitter), to our lovers, to those we hope will notice us and eventually love us, to those we want to impress, to readers that would buy our books, read our columns and make us count, to bleed on the page as poets do, to write forever and ever and come up with epics that university students claim to have read, to pen love letters irrigated with tears, divorce papers, house purchases, tax returns. Most of what we do in life has to be sealed with words, our births, school certificates, degrees, marriages, deaths. If we are blind we touch and read the words with our fingers, if we are deaf we signal the words, in times of war we alter the words and use code – a scrambled language only spies can understand, or misunderstand.
With all our words, languages, tools – phones, fax, physical and electronic mail, our spoken words as well as our written ones, we are failing to dialogue and connect with each other, to reach out, to communicate, to understand, to empathize, to have a meaningful conversation with those that count in our lives. We are faced more and more not only with superfluous information and word overkill, with so much to digest, sort through, fathom, and act on, we are also supposed to overcome the vile, the pointed, the bias, the prejudice in the words we are assaulted with in every waking moment.
I was a guest at a dinner recently where a respected author, professor, man of words, told a most horrible joke that hurt all my sensibilities, it was so politically incorrect, biased, overflowing with prejudice, insulting a whole religion of many millions, joking about the sacred of others, about their dignity, and others around the table laughed. I was physically ill. I felt that my stomach was cramping, and I somehow found words of my own that sprung forth from me and countered those of the bigot. I first covered my eyes with my hands, I was that assaulted, and then I told the respectable figure that his joke was extremely in bad taste, I expressed to him and everyone there how politically incorrect it was, shaking my head in disbelief. His reply was even more insulting. He said he saw the cross I was wearing around my neck and assured himself that I didn’t belong to the religion in question. I almost choked on my nice French wine, I was even more stunned at his assumption that just because I did not belong to the group that was the target of his hurtful words, that I somehow shared his vile disregard of a religion I grew up respecting. I was astounded about the chasm that separates us humans, at our way with words, how easily we use and abuse them, often to our detriment, at our lost souls that refuse to connect to the other humans with whom we share a planet and a future, at making assumptions and attacking what we don’t know with words.
We do that on every level, we are quiet when we should be saying what we feel, we pull away from communicating when we assume there is nothing more to say. I am doing that right now. I decided to take a break from connecting to most people, I have to reflect, evaluate, be with the people that know me, who I don’t irk and make uncomfortable, those who like me, those who love a lot of things about me, with no judgment about anything that I am not responsible for, about anything that is written on my birth record, my nationality, my religion, my belief, who I am, when and where I was born.
Why do we keep doing this? Why do we judge others based on their identity, on stereotypes, on our biased and skewed view of what works and what doesn’t, on what our rule book dictates. What rules? Who made them? Who made us so paranoid and untrusting? Where have we gone wrong? Words. Uncomfortable words.