Thursday, June 21, 2007

the tower of babel

I've been thinking a lot about community these days. And in that context, differences as they translate into beauty or into conflict. Long ago, or so it says in the bible, humankind spoke one language. They were a unified people who, through the strength of many, worked together to build a tower into the heavens. God, seeing what his people had built, set about to prevent it by confounding the people's language and scattering them all over the world.

Nowadays, ethnic and religious cultures stand out in stark contrast against one another. When you meet someone who speaks another language the human differences are quite tangible. How can you connect with someone when you can't understand what they're saying? How can you build a community with someone, when community relies so much on communication?

The fact is, good communication and positive community building are a challenge even for two people who speak the same language--if those two people choose to focus only on the differences.

Here's where I can really learn something from my cat. Au Lait and I speak different languages. But we've both gotten to the point, I think, where we're beginning to understand each other, even if we can't speak the words. She'll meow a certain way. Then meow again. Before I would say, "Au Lait, I don't know what you want." I would say that till I was blue in the face. Truth is though, I might not know what she's saying, but I do know what she needs or wants.

Likewise, sometimes she'll choose to push her luck, and pretend she doesn't know that what she's doing hurts my feelings. But when I look into her eyes, I see a certain hesitation there. I'll just say her name and she'll pull back. It's a little game we have of sorts: you give a little, I'll give a little. In the end, the we's have it, so long as everyone involved puts in a little effort (e.g. I give some food and playtime, she sits on my feet in bed).

That's right. I'm saying communication has absolutely nothing to do with language. It's about dialog and understanding. It's about sharing a moment despite our differences. And that's where the beauty lies.

2 comments:

Hanushka said...

What a wonderful reminder! And so eloquently stated. Of course we will be divided if we focus on the differences and not on what we can do to bring us together. Like this morning with Mister, he meowed all morning and I just got mad. I knew that he only wanted to play, but I chose to interpret that as his desire to torture me. Perspective is so important... xo miss you

Penelope Wall said...

I wish Au Lait and Mister could just play together. Isn't that what they really want?

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