Your hair has grown too long
Been away for such a long time
Just can’t find the words
Lonesome fools build lonesome walls
To hide behind and cry behind
But I can’t hide
I’m hurting babe
But I can’t cry
Lay your love on me
Lay your love on me
(Mojave 3: “Sarah”) Summer has returned after its hiatus, and grassy knees are back in fashion, just like the light salad, the bike and the social life. I can only imagine how healthy I might be if it was summer all year round — if I was living in the tropical paradise that we Northerners always imagine.
Today’s topic, brought by the religious studies students coming from class, was Atlantis. The lost island with the lost civilization. Sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. I’m reminded how a place like Atlantis changes meaning from each new retelling of the story. How it was the antagonist state in Plato’s original telling of the tale, eventually to be out of favor with the deities and thus banished from the possibility of population. And how it was just a great fantasy place in Disney’s depiction, a place made for adventure, for research. A place of dreams and drama. That was my childhood understanding of Atlantis. And I suppose, even now, it’s the most predominant in my mind. When I hear anyone talk about Atlantis, I’m drawn into longing for expeditions to faraway places.
Places and symbols change their meaning by context and utterance: where, who, and why is something said. One of my favorite things about language is the bendy fabric that it’s made up of. Language is never too rigid, nor ever too loose, unless you’re in a situation where there’s no common tongue.
Language both has rules, and at the same time functions in an ever-changing landscape, making up the rules on the fly, which must be considered as there not being rules. We change them when we need to change them, or when we want to change them, on a whim.
I have a different language with each person I talk to. Some are highly reliant on abbreviations. Others are dependent on pronunciation. Some again are based on symbols, and some languages are pure poetry. Having been away from a certain conversation for an extended period of time doesn’t erode the common tongue that has been built.
I also enter into a specific language when writing here, although I’m prone to change it if I’ve been recently influenced by a different language that takes a strong hold on me. I’m forever prone to the fast-paced language of Jack Kerouac whenever I dive into one of his books, visibly ending up changing my own language, making it more swift, less abstract, being more to the point while at the same time accepting any digression that might show itself to me, as long as it’s communicated in the here and now, not ever letting the sentence die.
Speaking of Kerouac I’m reminded how language forms our thinking. How those digressions I run into after reading even just a few pages of him get me to think in a new pattern, where usually I can go into an almost paralyzed state of my thoughts whenever I hit a speed bump, when I’m under the influence of Kerouac I just write my way through it, spitting new sentences left and right, until suddenly I’m back on track again.
There should be a mandatory reading of Kerouac before those writing workshop assignments of speed writing. Speed writing is 900 % easier when drugged up on Jack.
But that’s another way of getting into a specific language, other than talking to people, reading a book by an author with a strong sense of his or her own language. I suppose this spills into the whole idea of “talking with the author” when you’re reading a book, as if we’re keeping a conversation with the writer of these words as we read along. Communication is always an action involving at least two parties. One to make an utterance, and one to perceive this utterance and understand it. Books are silent as long as no one’s reading them.
I miss some of the languages I’ve lost over the years. When bridges are burnt, all the good things burn with them as well. All the common secrets. All the shared understandings. All the language.
But it leaves traces, and sometimes I wonder how something from an old language reappears in a new one, showing up from either a sense of a like vibe, or because some trick of the mind brought it forth and it was accepted.
I guess it’s like that with most of our past. It’s hidden from view, until suddenly it comes back in tiny bursts. Like the fictive Atlantis, sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but nevertheless an ever popular place whenever it resurfaces, bringing together the new and the old, leading the memories from the childhood into an adult world of a more comprehensive understanding.