Language Is a Flash of the Human Spirit




“When each of you were born there where 6000 languages spoken on the planet. A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world.

Every language is an old growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, and ecosystem of spiritual possibilities… today… fully half are no longer whispered into the ears of children, they’re no longer being taught to babies.” (Wade Davis: Dreams From Endangered Cultures. TED Talk)

I did it!….


I hiked with my oldest son from one tip of Prince Edward Island to the other,  all 274 km of it, on the Confederation Trail, in nine days, averaging 30 km a day.

Sometimes we talked, sometimes we were silent, sometimes me or my oldest son walked side by side, other times way ahead, or behind, alone. Sometimes we laughed, sometimes we told stories, sometimes we discussed, but we always wondered….. in silence, about so many things.

Long-distance hiking gives you a chance to think, away from technology, distractions, and outs one more in tune with the creation heartbeat, where you can no longer get away from yourself.

I discovered that hiking in torrential rain for two days was best. Your sense of smell, sight, and sound are heightened. As the rain pelts your body and flows to the ground you feel more a part, more in tune with this creative force as we are ripped out of the fabricated illusion we call life…. which is nothing more than a routine of expending ourselves for the benefit of the rich while seizing their lure of “Getting Ahead”.

I was lost in three worlds out there on the trail.
The West African dream.
The Natural marvels.
The artificial human fabricated world of work and consumerism that shadows the two because we work so hard to support consuming so much.

I though of the Malian people among whom I live and work, who are living a dying language. Of the village where there remains only two ancient men, the village chief and one ancient village elder, who still speak their native language to each other. I think of the village where the adults speak their mother tongue, but none of their children can speak it, because they are not taught it any more, rather the adults letting their children be assimilated by the market language of Bambara. This rising generation of children I play with, who sit on my knee, and who I pat on the head, are the living extinction of their language.

I thought about how easy it is to forget the realities of the majority world…. who live in basic subsistence simplicity, not by choice… while I go out to a restaurant for dinner.

It is so easy to live here, immersed in the ease and gluttony of the West. To simply let the cushioning fog of western life routines insulate me from what my eyes have seen, my hands have touched, my ears have heard, and what my heart has loved, and been wounded for.

This hike for Man of Peace Development’s Water 2 Water Awareness Campaign…. for me  was, “…an old growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, and ecosystem of spiritual possibilities.”

Why is it that right now, after living, working, and breathing Africa for twenty years, it seems like a dream from here? Was it really me over there? For Real, all these years?

My feet still have the blisters. Both my big toes have lifted toenails. One big toe toenail finally burst open, gushing fluid out from under the floating nail, and now it can finally heal. Nothing else hurt, but my feet hurt, and it was good to feel something. Honestly, life here without Africa makes me numb, and dumb.

I’m ready to get back to Africa…. despite that blasted Al-Qaeda, Ebola, and rebel activity that blocked our work last winter.

If articulated language,”…. is a flash of the human spirit.”, what is silence? I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m still feeling numb….. and dumb without some West Africa.

Life is a song – sing it.
Life is a game – play it.
Life is a challenge – meet it.
Life is a dream – realize it.
Life is a sacrifice – offer it.
Life is love – enjoy it.
(Sai Baba)

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