Tag Archive for: language

“When I look on you a moment, then I can speak no more, but my tongue falls silent, and at once a delicate flame courses beneath my skin, and with my eyes I see nothing, and my ears hum, and a wet sweat bathes me, and a trembling seizes me all over.” Sappho, Ancient Greek poet, 610-580BC

Despite the beauty of the words, what struck me first about this quote as I first saw it were the dates during which this poet lived. Nearly 2,500 years ago. There was written language. Like this.

Forgive me for being terribly consumed by the age in which I live – the age of high speed internet and bluetooth cellular capability and routine air travel via jumbo jet. When I look back at my own life (nearly forty years long) and realize that most of these things haven’t been around that long – heck I started out life with rotary dial phones and didn’t get my first computer until I was a junior in college – I am astonished at what remains. In the last hundred years, automobiles were invented, rail travel was perfected, the telegraph came in to being. I often take for granted that our world changes drastically in small increments from generation to generation. I have seen movies go from reel-to-reel to beta to VHS tape to DVD. Phones go from rotary dial to push-button to cordless to cellular to smart phones. I will not be surprised in the least to look back on my life from my 80s to discover that something I thought impossible as a child has come to fruition.

But to be struck with the notion that over thousands and thousands of years, one thing in particular has remained for humankind, I truly did feel shocked. Communication. From the beginning of humankind, we have felt the need to converse with each other, tell each other stories, find a way to express ourselves. Before written language, there were oral histories, songs, musical instruments, sign language. And although written language has changed dramatically, from handwritten letters between two individuals to digitized e-books, the ultimate purpose remains. Communication. Sharing our ideas and needs and knowledge with each other.

Families with non-verbal members have long struggled to find ways to communicate among themselves. Technology has afforded many of these families with the ability to better understand each other, by circumventing the spoken language with keyboards and iPads.

Upon completing my first manuscript, I began to worry that the publishing industry would go the way of the dodo and I would be left scrambling to find a way to share my work. I needn’t have broken a sweat. The simple fact is, human beings are who we are because of our need to communicate with each other. We will always find ways to accomplish this – radio, blogs, ebooks, rallies, pamphlets, songs, things I am sure I haven’t yet considered. As a writer, I am heartened to realize that what I do fulfills such an integral need of humanity. Not everyone will read my words, and not all who read them will agree on their accuracy or importance, but the simple knowledge that language and discourse has stood the test of time and will find its way through like a weed in the sidewalk grounds me.