Lingua speak

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Lingua speak
by Manuel A. Luna-Murray

I am your best friend:

I am poetry and short stories
dramas, plays, and essays
books and inspiration
courage and strength.

I am power:

The act of divine creation
in spoken and written form.

I am the essence of humanity
preceding the existence of the soul.

I demand all allegiance
I serve your every need

I unite us together
through trust and affirmation.

I am self-awareness…

I am the glue that cements all relationships—

The all-seeing eye that scrutinizes
every thought, word, and deed.

I am all of this and so much more…

I AM LANGUAGE

2 thoughts on “Lingua speak

  1. Enjoyed the poem, especially the topic and the self-reference of the poem explaining what constitutes the poem itself. My favorite part, though, is hands-down the thematic section following “I am power”. And forgive me if this is meant to be read rather than discussed, but I would love to know your thought process regarding the thematic progression of best-friend – power – self-awareness, as I was surprised by this particular order.
    Now, for a quasi-related comment that ends with a book recommendation: the idea of Language being God and God being Language reminded me of certain kabbalistic belief that states that true names and words contain the very essence of the alluded being, and thus the true name of God is impossible to utter. And THAT reminded me of an EXCELLENT short story by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, called “Death and the Compass”, that uses that information as a plot device. You might like it, being that you can actually read the original in Spanish. Let me know if you have a chance to read it.

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    1. Daniel, thank you so much for taking the time to read my work and for commenting on my poem. I am glad that you enjoyed the poem along with the work’s self-referential nature explaining the work itself. I also noticed that you subscribed as a follower. This truly makes my day. Moreover, there is no need to apologize for your comments and observations as I openly encourage such open discussion and your remarks, along with your reading suggestions, are appreciated far more than you can imagine. Writing, as I am sure you know can be quite a daunting task and it is an exercise that can both isolate and unify the self while simultaneously connecting individual perspectives with those of the larger world. Hence the reason your commentary is quite welcome.
      To answer your question regarding my thought process, I must provide you with a little background that goes beyond the poem itself. This poem “Lingua speak” is a much more shortened version of a longer poem titled “An Uneasy Alliance” which can also be found in this blog. An “Uneasy Alliance” was written in 2010 and the poem itself emerged from a dream. At the time I was studying Linguistics at the University and was particularly interested in the life cycle of languages from birth to growth to death and even revival. Language preservation and revitalization is a growing field within Linguistics which aims to maintain and propagate the rich cultural diversity of languages as repositories of human knowledge, wisdom, and experience for future generations. Think of each language as a river containing a myriad of ocean possibilities for the growth and development of humanity. In any case, my interest in the subject of language death and revival was more than academic as it turns out that I have a Native American heritage and the language of my ancestors has become extinct. My point in rehashing this history is that both “An Uneasy Alliance” and “Lingua speak” can both be best understood within this context. You can learn more about Language Death and Revival here: https://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/languagerevival.php and here: https://www.omniglot.com/pdfs/languagerevival.pdf.
      If you have not yet read “An Uneasy Alliance” I strongly encourage you to do so as it places “Lingua speak” within a larger context. My reason for writing “Lingua speak” was my desire to enter a poetry writing contest for an opportunity to have my writing recognized alongside an art piece to be permanently exhibited outside of my town’s Public Library. The poetry contest required that the poem be focused on the themes of books, reading, and language and that the poem be limited to only a prescribed number of lines (I no longer remember how many lines exactly). So to answer your question regarding my thought process and the poem’s thematic progression of best friend – power – and self-awareness the answer lies somewhere between the lines of practicality and aesthetics. The practical aspect was the result of the limited number of lines provided to me while the aesthetics was the result of the subject matter centered on the themes of books, reading, and language.
      As an avid reader, books – and consequently the language which houses the magic of books – constitute my best friend. Anyone who has spent any time in a library can attest to the variety of genres found within the library’s walls. Each genre represents a distinct feature of language’s multifaceted personality and adds both depth and breadth to the interrelationship between reader and writer and speaker and language. This ongoing dialogue forms the basis of an enduring friendship where each individual grows and evolves from the continued exposure to fresh ideas and novel perspectives. And so the poem’s speaker, language itself (lingua speak), derives new and varied insights from each reader and subsequent reading as each reader brings their own experience to the table when expressing themselves through the medium of language (in whatever form this may take) and thus strengthening the bonds of friendship with each succeeding generation.
      Language as a source of power is a concept that has existed since the dawn of time. Recall the fact that the very concept of history revolves around the idea of language. In fact, the common consensus among many scholars is that the division between Pre-History and History begins with the invention and dissemination of writing. As such, our very notions of tradition and culture are embedded within our psyche as both literate and literary traditions continually shape the modern world’s ongoing dialogue to the point that we are now oversaturated with text. Do remember, however, that oral traditions have played and continue to play an integral part in the maintenance and propagation of diverse cultures and societies around the world and that our present world would not exist without oral traditions from whence poetry is derived. All of this to say that language represents the embodiment of power across varied times, cultures, and landscapes. Immediately following the poem’s lines stating the following: “I am power:/ The act of divine creation/in spoken and written form”, we learn that “I am the essence of humanity/ preceding the existence of the soul.” Again the notion of possessing a soul can be truly empowering as it lends itself to the idea of meaning and purpose. It is this search for meaning and purpose that has resulted in the codification of numerous values, systems, and beliefs exemplified by the world’s diverse cultures, religions, philosophies, ethics, governments, and many other labyrinthine corridors of thought. The driving force behind all of this is language as none of the inherent abstractions of the aforementioned varied systems of thought would be possible without language’s intervention. Furthermore, the practical application of the previously stated abstractions into institutionalized systems of thought (religions, governments, philosophies, etc.) has its basis on the dynamic between thought, word, and deed. In this way, religions, governments, philosophies, and many other institutions based on theoretical frameworks of systematized thought are able to use language as a means of creation and thus secure power via the consensus of the governed as depicted in the following lines: “I unite us all together/through trust and affirmation.”
      The final element in the poem’s thematic progression is that of self-awareness. Our self-awareness begins when the infant’s mind is able to separate itself as a distinct entity from the rest of the world. The infant, however, is unable to describe and understand the notion of self until it is able to adopt the language of its surroundings. Similarly, as each of us grows and matures our concept of self, freedom, and identity begins to evolve in response to both our internal and external experiences of self and others. This self-awareness stems from our ongoing inner dialogue allowing us to constantly create and recreate new identities in the face of changing circumstances and a widening understanding of relationships. In this way, language serves as “The all-seeing eye that scrutinizes/every thought, word, and deed.”
      Bringing together all of the thematic elements of the poem’s progression: best friend (relationship), power (creation), and self-awareness (consciousness), the poem’s persona (language) becomes an anthropomorphized entity speaking its own language by using the very elements of language that shape our inner being (self-awareness). Language is an evolving tool which is self-reflexive in its ability to change and adapt in the face of continued dangers to its existence in much the same way that all sentient beings (not just humans) evolve to meet the changing demands of their environment. To take the analogy a step further, language attaches itself to a best friend (relationship, in this case a human being) who in turn possesses a certain degree of influence upon this best friend (creation of power) through a new form of expression (a new language stemming from the power dynamics that exist within the newly formed relationship), and finally the language becomes part of the collective consciousness of the human experience (self-awareness). What this means is that language never exists within a vacuum and all sentient beings (in this case we are focusing strictly on humans) possess an uneasy alliance with language which is reciprocal in both its power to unify and divide (relationships), create and destroy (culture), and either increase or minimize self-awareness (think the language of freedom vs. the language of oppression.) Perhaps a historical example might better assist readers with visualizing these esoteric concepts. Let us take for instance the example of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his leadership role within the United States Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. A well-respected Church leader and educated African-American in a country divided by racism, the Reverend’s words carried great weight with his followers but it was his actions in the face of increasing violence and opposition that gained the admiration of millions. In this example we see how the personal relationship with his followers (best friend) was coupled with the power (language) of the Reverend’s words to mobilize others into action (self-awareness). These actions began a domino effect that eventually led to the signing of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Civil Rights Act of 1964). Thanks to this legislation it has become illegal to discriminate on the basis of several protected statuses such as race and religion which means that this signed document (the power of written language to create) has shaped the conversation regarding social norms (self-awareness) and thus resulted in a more civil society (best friend/relationship) or a least one more tolerant of diversity of thought.
      Daniel, regarding your comment on certain Kabbalist beliefs revolving around the idea of Language being God and God being Language this is an idea that is further explored in my poem An Uneasy Alliance. In fact, the Bible depicts the Hebrew God as I AM in Exodus 3:11-15. Many scholars and theologians assert that this text depicts God as being permanent and immutable and so His Word (Logos/Language) remains unchanging just as it possesses the power to change everything again through His word (language). It has been a long time since I have read Jorge Luis Borges. I have read both English translations of his work as well as the original Spanish. My favorite short story from his many works and the one that I best remember is The Library of Babel (La Biblioteca de Babel) which I have read in the original Spanish. I will have to find the short story Death and the Compass and read it before I can discuss it with you. What is the Spanish title for this short story? Let me know. Thank you again for your comments. Have a great day.

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