There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood.  And understanding someone else.

Brad Metzger, in The Inner Circle

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Humans are social beings.  We need each other in order to be human.  Likewise, we need intimate contact with one another.  Language is the way we make that human contact, achieve intimacy.

Yes, we speak and listen and in the process of linguistic interaction intimacy is realized.  To understand another and be understood is an intimate transaction.

Language and intimacy go hand in hand.

Humans have the most evolved and elaborate linguistic capacity of all of God’s creatures.  We possess the gift of language so we might know intimacy, know one another and ourselves.

As Patrick Rothfuss says in The Name of the Wind –

Words can light the fires in the minds of men.  Words can bring tears from the hardest hearts.

Yes, there is power – emotional and social magic – in language.  Words do touch the heart of both speaker and one who is spoken to, and those who listen.

Language creates intimacy, brings us together, conveys our identity to the heart and mind of another and allows them the same privilege.

However, we seem today to be not as facile with language, speaking, and listening as we once were. This seems more so the case with men and women born in the last four decades, even those with excellent educations.

I often hear from parents who tell of their adult children who do not respond to them.  Of emails sent and not answered.  Of cell phone messages that go unheeded.  Notes written without response.

I hear as well from siblings who speak of encountering the same problem among their sisters and brothers.  Where there could be contact, there is none.

These parents and siblings report of their sadness in being treated with a somewhat cruel silence and they ask me why this is.

My reply is very simple: I tell them that when another who might love us, with whom we might reasonably expect some human contact does not respond it deprives us of our identity and of intimacy and that this is a loss at the deepest level of our existence – that it is the price of solitary confinement without the trial, the sentence and the cell, that it says to us that which no human can invite or endure: you are alone, abandoned and there is nothing you can do about it.

Truth is there is great and serious injury in the silence we encounter where once there was warmth and intimacy.  Indeed, we have become a culture of this hurtful silence, this drastic loss of intimacy.

Neither people nor a culture can long exist without intimate contact.  Intimacy holds us together as one, in family and as community.

When language fades, intimacy does too. Then, the human goes – a victim of cold silence.  Lost language means lost hearts, and deadened souls.

Think about it.

Shalom.

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