Yesterday afternoon I felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language.
Where I’d studied the language out of a textbook at some point along the way, but I’d never used it enough in conversation to really understand and speak it myself.
So I just sat there and tried to nod appropriately and smile or look concerned when I was supposed to, but on the inside, I didn’t have a clue.
I was talking to a financial advisor. A stockbroker.
Yes, I studied economics and the Uniform Commercial Code and corporate structure where we learned all about the stock market in law school.
I passed all the tests.
But I never learned to speak the language.
I learned to speak other languages, though.
For instance, when I coached speech and debate, a conversation at a speech tournament might go something like this:
“So what events do you do?”
“HI, DI and prose”
“What about you?
“Extemp and C-X.”
“Who’d you hit last round?”
“That team that we hit in double-octos last weekend. Did you break in anything?”
“Yeah, DI, but I got DQed in HI for going over.”
Sound like Greek? Of course it does, if you’ve never lived in that world.
And then I learned legalese.
A world where people actually begin letters with phrases like “pursuant to our conversation,” and “attached please find blah, blah, blah.” A world where you learn to stick words like “heretofore” and “notwithstanding” in sentences merely to confuse the average person.
So often language separates.
When I think it was originally intended to bring us together. To help us know each other beyond the surface. To connect us on a deeper level.
So we’d feel less alone.
We need something deeper than words, though, to connect us.
Something that tells me I can trust what that stockbroker’s saying, even when I don’t understand the words.
Something like I felt last night watching the faces of men and women singing their hearts out. Men and women whose lives are hard. Who speak a different language than I speak. One of poverty. Disadvantage. Despair.
But the music we were making together transcended the words.
And for a moment we were all speaking the same language.
The guy I talked to today speaks that language, too.
That’s why I gave him my money.