How young are we when we notice that learning means
acquiring languages? Not soon enough for us to become
world citizens conversant with multiple living tongues,
but early enough to learn to read multiple sign systems.
We use them for self-preservation. Passive grammar is
among the first: Not taking responsibility, but assigning it
to objects and thin air, like “It broke” instead of “I broke it”
and like “He died” instead of “I killed him.”
Impersonation might be next, soon followed by
choosing the signs we want others to read on us
rather than being genuine and unmasked. Offstage,
we wear signs as easily as make-up and costume.
And before we learn that unlearning might be good,
we have swallowed the codes of dominant culture,
which we have less skill to use strategically than
outward signs, less ability to control as we use them.
And then we learn Silence. Did all or some of these
languages keep us safe? At what point did trauma
cause us to let go of direct child-like speaking? Or
were layers a game to be smart, smarter, smartest?
With children to raise, we see the complexity
of learning, the necessity for instilling safety in movement
and language. Without children of our own to learn from,
we gravitate to nieces, nephews, neighbors, students.
This morning in meeting for Worship, O pointed out that
the Bible book of Matthew records Jesus saying we have
to turn around, humble ourselves, and become like little
children again. How young would we have to become?