Last night, I took myself to the movies to watch "Arrival". I sat in the dark of my old neighborhood movie theater, and reveled in one of my favorite types of films: Big Question movies, ones that explore what we would do in the midst of a reality-shattering event? How would we respond? What might our fundamental human nature reveal itself to be in the face of the unknown? If you haven't seen "Arrival", I recommend it. The film serves as a good reminder of the transformational power of language. It is based on the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang.
Afterwards, I found myself searching for Jacques Brel's "Ne me quitte pas", specifically as sung by Nina Simone. I wanted to rekindle the part of my mind on which French had a hold. I was raised on Nina's version of the song (though Edith Piaf also delivered us a gift in her version as well).
I'm in the process of trying to learn Spanish, which has oddly made French feel like coming back home. The throaty purred r's of French feel comfortable to the crisp and fresh rolled r's of Spanish. My mind feels younger with Spanish but much more mature with French.
All of this is to say language is incredibly powerful. The words we choose can bring about peace, aggression, calm, anger, acceptance and rejection. As you go through the next week, I challenge you to find a new language to play with. Maybe it's French, Spanish, Chinese -- it doesn't matter. If we are going to do a better job in the coming years of listening to one another across boundaries, giving time to other languages is one way to start.