Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just listen.......

Getting older takes a lot away from us every day. 

Like our keys. Or errant cell phones.

And that word that slips around the corner of our memory banks just when we think we're on the verge of nailing it down, only to have it slither away again.

There are so many things that we can't do (or find) like we used to in "the olden days."  At least our kids don't have to walk to school in the snow like we did, right?

But age gives us things, too.

Like perspective. If nothing else, we have learned that life is complicated and messy. And there is little that we encounter that can be put neatly into a box with a label that never changes. 

Like speaking other languages here in America.

Someone said to me recently that they were offended by a young Latina singer always singing in Spanish. (Go figure.) After all, this person went on to say, isn't this America? Why can't she sing those lyrics in English so we can understand them?

Wow....this could take us into discussions about all kinds of heavy issues, right? Including the one about those outsourced customer service positions being held by young men and women in lands far away who are, well, less than proficient in the language of their customers. And the one about "foreigners" taking American jobs away, even if Americans don't really want them.

Well, it could, but that's not my destination right now. I think that's really a different point, anyway. And those issues are complicated and messy and serious, I grant.

I'm going to a much simpler place here today. I'm talking about music and diversity and knowing how to speak to one another, how to hear one another, even without a common language.

I don't need to know the translation of that Latina's words to "hear" her soul, the one she is pouring out through my radio or IPod or computer screen. I understand her perfectly without cutting and pasting the Spanish lyrics and having my software translate them into English. I routinely listen to another young artist sing arias in Italian, and I don't know a word of that language, either. But the emotion he is bleeding all over the airwaves raises the hair on my arms and brings tears to my eyes just the same. 

A young woman on a social networking site that I am addicted to--yes, THAT one--has introduced me to many new forms of music, most performed in languages I know nothing about. Arabic. Croatian. Portuguese. I am mesmerized. (If you can't find me, this is a hint on where to look. I WILL respond if you IM me.)  And I am grateful to have my perspective of life stretched in this way.

I speak only English, in spite of seven years of French instruction back in the dark ages of my high school and college career. Yes, I am a natural born American who has lived here all my life. But I am not offended by merely hearing another language spoken--or sung--in my presence. In fact, I cherish it, I cherish all of them. They add texture, and color, and brilliance to my perspective of life, every one of them. 

People are more alike than they are different, no matter what language they speak. Or sing. And our hearts have the capability of hearing each other just fine.

All we have to do is listen.

"......words have no meaning - people have meaning."

Larry Baker

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