Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Speaking Across Barriers: A Journal of Communication

Something quite wonderful happened  at the local Masjid (Mosque) today. I had just finished my prayers and was about ready to dash out in hall for the food that awaited me, when two women, both Arabic speakers, pointed at my phone, and asked me in broken English whether they could use it. They were very appreciative after they made the phone call, and we struck up a conversation in whatever little Arabic I could muster up from studying it for a semester in college, mixed with the bits and pieces of English they were accustomed to. Our conversation was extremely limited, both parties struggling to translate meaning across the surface, yet we learned words from one another, and connected in a way that is possible only when two people are able to speak and discern similar interests or become familiar with each other's backgrounds.

This truly amazed me, because it exemplified that there is a hidden culture that lies beyond the one that has been socially constructed, one that goes beyond borders and nationalities, surpasses common language, food, dress and rituals. Culture in general exists so we may relate to another, create bonds and truly understand and communicate with the people around us. This hidden culture shows us that it is not simply the symbols and outward displays different groups of people have created or held in tradition for generations that bind us together and build relationships. It is not language that brought me to these people; we were as different in speech as night is to day, but rather the friendliness the women exhibited, the smiles we exchanged, and the desire to comprehend each other as inhabitants of the same community. Without language, we would not be completely lost. We have this universal culture that keeps us afloat; the facial expressions we encompass, the emotions we display, the drive to help and support others, our genuine curiosity of and interest in the individuals we share our physical world with, and our capacity as humans to respect other people. This is a communication more powerful than any words can ever express. A type of communication that needs no translation, and has no limits.

So next time you meet someone who does not have the same apparent culture as you, or even speak the same language as you, don't write off the interaction as pointless and unnecessary. If the relation is meant to be, nothing in the world can stand in your way. Remember, human communication is a powerful thing. Who knows, your perceived differences may in fact turn out not to be differences after all, but simply a barrier that you are afraid to transgress. You may learn more from the person than you have ever learned from anyone, without even speaking a single word.We have been created with so many complex features,not just the ability to speak verbally. Never cease to use them, all of them, and you will epitomize what it means to really be human!

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