Thursday, June 20, 2013

Watch Your Language

Well, Adorabella (as I like to call her) is 14 months old now, and walking all over the place.  She also wants complete free roam of the house, which means following her everywhere.  She’s a pure joy, but it is quite challenging to get things done as a work at home Dad in an environment with a baby who doesn’t believe in naps.  It’s all a big learning game that I’m sure will never end, and we are very fortunate to have such a happy baby.  We take her everywhere and she just loves to smile and wave at everyone she sees.  It’s great to see the faces of other people just light up when they see her.  Not a day goes by that she doesn’t brighten the day of a complete stranger (many of whom actually say so).  And, not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at her mere existence, much less her unbelievable preciousness.

I could go on and on, and Shelby has thousands of pictures of Adorabella on Facebook, but just to give you a small taste of how beautiful our little girl is, here is a link to pictures from a photo shoot done when she turned a year old -  Believe it or not, she keeps getting cuter :)

Anyway, though she isn’t speaking much English at this point (gibberish is our favorite language right now), she understands a great deal.  She knows all sorts of words and some sign language to boot.  We have learned to be careful what we say out loud and spell things from time to time when we don’t want her to pick up on something.  It’s really mind blowing how smart she is and how quickly she absorbs things.  You can almost see the new neural pathways being built as she moves about.

At this point, one of the logical issues that needs to be addressed is what words would we like her not to say once she graduates from gibberish.  I typically don’t swear much except when I drop something or injure myself in some way.  However, Shelby thinks we need to avoid profanity altogether, which takes me back to my youth when I decided I could say anything I wanted.  My rationale was that words were simply vibrations of the vocal chords given meaning by someone hundreds of years ago.  The meaning of those words was passed on from generation to generation and more words were added.  Somewhere along the way, certain words were deemed rude by someone and that rumor was passed on until it became widespread.  Today we have a list of words in the English language that are considered profane or vulgar.

In my youth I would have thought it silly to pass on such lessons to the newer generation, but now I’m faced with the reality that what I consider appropriate and what general society consider appropriate need to be balanced.  That’s just the nature of teaching our kids how to get along in the world, which means I have to find other words to use when I would ordinarily cuss (or curse if you prefer).  Right now I’m trying to use the word “bleep” in situations that need some added emphasis.

Then, of course, there is the teaching of basic language and what we say when we refer to things.  For example, we have dogs so she knows what the word dog refers to.  However, there are also stuffed dogs, plastic toy dogs, pictures of dogs in books, etc.  For me, this is where the potential for confusion comes in.  We are referring to all of these things as dogs, which basically means we are lying to her.  It seems like it would be confusing when we say “Look at the doggie,” pointing to a four legged creature covered with fur standing next to her, then turn to a book or a toy and do the same thing.  I’m sure she will reconcile the discrepancy sooner rather than later, but it reminded me that language is where we start losing site of what’s real.

Though it’s necessary for us to tell little white lies in order for Adorabella to get along in the world, the end result could be covering up everything she currently experiences with wide eyed innocence with words.  As we label everything for her, the world of mystery and wonder starts getting intertwined with words.  A dog is not really a dog.  Dog is a word invented by some Latin guy (I think they invented most of the words we use today) and passed on as truth.  The truth is that a dog is a beautiful being that a word doesn’t do justice.  But we have to call it something, until we don’t.  At some point we can unwind the labels from the objects so that we can again see things from that place of wonder.  When you drop the stories and labels covering up reality, then enlightened being is able to flourish.  Basically we have to learn the language, then unlearn it, as in recognize words for what they truly are – tools.

It’s interesting being a part of this long line of perpetrators who are passing on little white lies. We take what we were taught, customize it to our liking and pass it on.  Each generation gets to do the same thing, on and on.

The reminder here is to realize that words are actually hiding what’s real.  As Byron Katie likes to ask, “Who would you be without your story?”  What would a dog be if there wasn’t a name for such a thing?  Who would you be without a name?  I invite you to look at what’s hidden behind the labels we have for everything (including our selves) and do some unlearning of your own by loosening your grip on what you believe to be true.  All we have is an alphabet of letters arranged by, and given meaning to, by some ancient society.  Can we really believe that’s it?  What if there were no words for anything?  Then All is One.  No separation.  No distinction.  Even so, we never lose sight of the art of communication we learned as children.  We just see beyond the alphabet when we really look.

Word Up!