“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words,” said Rumi, the famous 13th century Persian Islamic scholar and poet. This is sage wisdom, as A World of Languages (2015) map is useful, but it is not identical with the terrain of the lives of people living in the bonds of community around the world. The map asserts that it “shows how languages have taken root” in the regions of the world. Actually, the map shows that language has taken root, but not how. And this takes us to Rumi’s point. The how of language’s rootedness is through the bonds of relationships that take place in good and bad ways, across migration and trade routes, through the complicated histories of conquest and discovery.
Even our personal histories remind us of Rumi. Relationships, which are the bonds of our humanity, are creative or coercive. These clear lines within the map of languages only hint at the deeper fractures and forces that shape the bonds of our humanity. No matter what, we alone are the inheritors of this terrain. And we are also the ones who pass it along to the future. We are the living embodiment of this inner bond.
Written by Rev. Dr. Michael Reid Trice
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Sources: Ethnologue-Languages of the World, CIA-US, UNESCO, United Nations, University of Dusseldorf, The Washington Post