Reclaiming Our Language Of Intimacy & Reverence
A few years back, while in the beginning stages of weaving a cross-cultural story gathering technique for The Global Culture of Women, I had the honor of sitting with a group of Lakota Sioux women in South Dakota. In that fierce circle of mostly elders, I was given one of the more profound gifts of my life. I was in the midst of reassembling my life after divorcing the father of my children, a man who was, hands-down, one of my dearest closest friends in the world. In this place of 'not this, nor that' I stumbled and fumbled as these women asked me to tell them who I was. In the dismantling process, where nothing was the same, no allegiance to status quo or former ways of being, I was all of a sudden aware I couldn't speak with any honor about anything relevant in my life using English vocabulary in the particular way I had been taught. (What had I been doing all this time?) In this new place, I needed to string things together in hyphenated necklaces of gratitude and description in order to make my words come close to conveying my experience. There were no individual words or terms that could even come close. "Ex-Husband" did not describe the relationship I now had with this man with whom I'd brought two extraordinary individuals into the world. "Divorce" did not come close to describing what we were up to, in this new iteration of our lives together. It all felt so deeply dishonoring. And none of it left me feeling see-able or capable of being known. I found myself moving toward tears as I finally just gave up trying to speak in the way my New England education taught me; linear, didactic, closed. In this space, in a stream of consciousness, I described the father of my children as, "The Man To Whom I Am No Longer Married With Whom I No Longer Sleep But Whom I Will Always Love With Whom I've Created Two Awake Humans And With Whom I Am Partnered To Raise Them." This spoke everything I wanted them to know about me in this particular thread of my life. It spoke not just about the father of my children but it spoke about me, and how I felt about family, and honor and commitment, and it spoke about my heart and my deep longing to let the world know I still loved this man. I felt I had, with their straightforward guidance, found myself, my life. And in this place, I could fall in love with myself and with the truth all around me, because I could see it.
In the circle of women who spoke in a different way, who used language as if it were its own alive being, I realized the English language has become a language of labeling a thing as either 'this' or 'that'. In this language, everything is 'other', and none of it is related. We find comfort in imagining we can know something by labeling it. To honorably and respectfully know an other is to love it with the energy of our attention enough to learn how to describe it. In the languages of description, there is no hierarchy. No one has the power to label another thing. Language should not be viewed as a vehicle of convenience. It is a pathway to relationship.
Years later sitting with Martin Prechtel in his off-the-map offering called Bolad's Kitchen, I was taught the second chapter in this practice. I was taught that it is insulting to name a thing as 'this' or 'that' as if we have been given permission to do so. Here I was taught that our language must reflect the awareness that when we speak about something we objectify it, we remove ourselves from the opportunity for intimacy with it. I practiced this new call to action the next morning, as I offered my prayers to what I had formerly called "the sun". And here, in this place of more fumbling, I learned something that brought me to tears. As I stood facing east on that frigid New Mexico December morning, I realized that it is a mutually dishonoring act to imagine we have the right to label another being with a single word; that it takes such presence of self-love, a willingness to be as magnificent as the other, to step into a relationship of true noticing and appreciation. Both grief stricken and empowered, I realized this way of being required that I know my own worth. And that this was, hands-down, more difficult than acknowledging the worth of the other. Tears streaming down my face, freezing before they got to my lips, I spoke as if I was learning a new language...because I was. "Good morning beautiful Copper Father In the Sky, without whom there would be no life, without whom I would not know warmth into my bones or gratitude for each day, without whom our Silver Mother Of the Night would orbit the sky in her own darkness, without the necessary luminous reflection of her lover . . . . "
I just received a card from the Earthquake Man in which he so effortlessly spoke to and of me in this poetic way of description, intimate love and honoring (leave it to the geophysicist to make this practice look easy!). It is both nourishing and an unavoidable call deeper into my own greatness to be seen into the mytho-poetic bones of me. It is how we hold each other accountable. It is the foundation of love making to know exactly where we each live and be able to find each other there.
I am so grateful for those who have not forgotten this, who so devotedly help the rest of us remember. As if our lives depended on it.