Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful For... Life.

Several months ago April and I took part in a rescue effort that wound up saving a young woman's life. It was one of the most remarkable experiences either one of us has ever had. It showed us how fragile life is. It showed us how there is "something else" (whether you choose religion, or some other form of energetic/spiritual connectedness) that can bring disparate humans together to accomplish something in an intense life or death situation. It reinforced in us that people are good.

She was dead. I saw death in her black eyes. I stared at it as I breathed into her. The abyss of it looked back at me; darkness somehow showing me what wasn't there at all; life. I saw it when we pulled her from the water, and I saw it each time I pinched her nose and moved to her mouth to push air in. I don't know why I didn't close her eyelids. It just let it keep looking at me; perhaps to challenge it, so it could bare witness to all the life and energy that was going into her. After several minutes, her struggled breath came. A few minutes later the EMTs arrived and took over for us.

We went to bed that night assuming the worst; that she had died. There was just no way she could have survived the situation (at least 12 minutes, and more like 15, without air, complete with severe blunt head trauma). The next morning, the Sheriff called, but instead of the words "I'm sorry" he told me she was off of the machines and responsive. I couldn't believe it. None of us could.

Months later her family, friends, and the rescuers gathered in the mountains so everyone could meet. She had just completed the last waves of therapy, and was getting back to life as she knew it before the incident. She was _alive_ and thriving. Against all odds. The accident killed her, and the odds of her coming back were just non-existent. But, it happened. We witnessed it.

I got to hold her face and stare into her eyes. The life inside poured out. It was like death hadn't ever been there at all. It was beautiful.

I am thankful she is alive. I am thankful she is surrounded by so much love. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to be surrounded by so much love.

I am thankful she doesn't remember the experience.

I am thankful to have been part of a spontaneous collection of heroic humans. Without the collective effort, she wouldn't have had a chance. The above is a but a fragment of my own experience, and just a sliver of the overall effort.

Arrival & Linguistic Relativity

The movie "Arrival" explores a concept I've loved since my first trip to Europe as a young man; Linguistic Relativity. Immediately the new world I dropped into felt different in ways I couldn't explain. Sure things were "different." Architecture, the "age" of cities, city layout, transportation, food, etc. But, I was convinced there was something else going on. The underlying human interactions were just "different." Something inside me told me it was related to the language being used to communicate.

There's a name for what I was feeling; "linguistic relatively" explores how our mind's fundamental experience and wiring is rooted in the language we know. This explains why fluently multi-lingual humans are just "different" than the rest of us. It explains how musicians are just "different" than the rest of us.

"Arrival" goes so far as to suggest that language can change our relationship with time itself. Such a cool idea!

I've been fortunate enough to spend time in a handful of Asian language rooted countries, as well as Latin based countries. The Asian languages (all rooted in ancient Chinese in one way or another), and therefore people/societies, are the most fascinating. When you talk to someone who primarily speaks/reads an Asian language, in-country, and ask them to translate something, you can see their brains trying to come up with an explanation and translation. Something that feels like it should be "easy," often just isn't. Sure, some nouns are easy: "car." But, much of the time the surrounding environment and context literally changes the words you'd use verbally or in writing. This experience doesn't hold as well if you're interacting with someone with Asian language roots in a non-Asian based society. For example, I've of course interacted with many of Asians here in the U.S., and you generally don't get a taste of this translation challenge unless you delve into it with them. I believe the reason for this is that they're outside of their native context, and their minds are working in overdrive to map to the "other" language (English in my case). Operationally they're trying their best to conform to the "other" language.

Some of my favorite interactions and music come from non-English native speakers who map their "other" language headspace into English. The mappings are often deeply impactful and non-conformist to how I, as an American-English speaker, hear/speak; often they're deeply profound. They can articulate things in ways the "other" native language speaker simply has never considered. Bjork comes to mind.

"She uses English like a weapon."