English subtítols

← The language of being human

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Showing Revision 13 created 07/06/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. Poet Ali: Hi.
    Audience: Hi.
  2. PA: I want to ask you guys a question.
    How many languages do you speak?

  3. This is not a rhetorical question.
  4. I actually want you to think of a number.
  5. For some of you, it's pretty easy.
  6. Inside your head, you're like, "It's one.
    You're speaking it, buddy. I'm done."
  7. Others of you maybe are wondering
  8. if the language an ex-boyfriend
    or ex-girlfriend taught you,
  9. where you learned all the cusswords,
  10. if it counts -- go ahead and count it.
  11. When I asked myself the question,
    I came up with four,
  12. arguably five, if I've been drinking.
  13. (Laughter)

  14. (In Italian: With a little bit of wine
    I can speak Italian.)

  15. (Applause)

  16. Cheers!

  17. But on closer examination,
    I came up with 83 -- 83 languages,

  18. and I got tired and I stopped counting.
  19. And it forced me to revisit
    this definition that we have of language.
  20. The first entry said,
  21. "The method of human communication,
    either spoken or written,
  22. consisting of the use of words
    in a structured or conventional way."
  23. The definition at the bottom refers
    to specialized fields,
  24. like medicine, science, tech.
  25. We know they have their own vernacular,
  26. their own jargon.
  27. But what most interested me was
    that definition right in the center there:
  28. "the system of communication used
    by a particular community or country."
  29. And I'm not interested
    in altering this definition.
  30. I'm interested in applying it
    to everything we do,
  31. because I believe that we speak
    far more languages than we realize.
  32. And for the rest of our time together,
  33. I'm going to attempt
    to speak in one language
  34. that is native to every single
    human being in this room.
  35. But that changes things a little bit,

  36. because then it's no longer
    a presentation.
  37. It becomes a conversation,
  38. and in any conversation,
  39. there must be some sort of interaction.
  40. And for any interaction to happen,
  41. there has to be a degree
    of willingness on both parties.
  42. And I think if we just are willing,
    we will see the magic that can happen
  43. with just a little bit of willingness.
  44. So I've chosen a relatively low-risk
    common denominator
  45. that can kind of gauge
    if we're all willing.
  46. If you're happy and you know it,
    clap your hands.
  47. (Claps)

  48. Now you're talking!

  49. (In Spanish: For all the people
    who speak Spanish,

  50. please stand up.
  51. And look at a person sitting to your side
  52. and start laughing.)
  53. (Laughter)

  54. Thank you so much.
    Please be seated.

  55. Now, if that felt a little bit awkward,

  56. I promise there was no joke
    being had at your expense.
  57. I simply asked the Spanish-speaking
    audience to stand up,
  58. look at a person that was sitting
    close to them and laugh.
  59. And I know that wasn't nice,
    and I'm sorry,
  60. but in that moment,
  61. some of us felt something.
  62. You see, we're often aware
    of what language does
  63. when we speak somebody's language,
  64. what it does to connect,
    what it does to bind.
  65. But we often forget what it does
    when you can't speak that language,
  66. what it does to isolate,
    what it does to exclude.
  67. And I want us to hold on
    as we journey through
  68. our little walk of languages here.
  69. (In Farsi: I'd like to translate
    the idea of "taarof.")

  70. I said in Farsi, "I'd like to translate
  71. this idea of 'taarof'
    in the Persian culture,"
  72. which, really -- it has no equivalent
    in the English lexicon.
  73. The best definition would be
    something like an extreme grace
  74. or an extreme humility.
  75. But that doesn't quite get the job done.
  76. So I'll give you an example.
  77. If two gentlemen
    were walking by each other,
  78. it'd be very common
    for the first one to say,
  79. (In Farsi: I am indebted to you),
  80. which means, "I am indebted to you."
  81. The other gentlemen would respond back,
  82. (In Farsi: I open my shirt for you)
  83. which means, "I open my shirt for you."
  84. The first guy would respond back,
  85. (In Farsi: I am your servant)
  86. which means, "I am your servant."
  87. And then the second guy
    would respond back to him,
  88. (In Farsi: I am the dirt
    beneath your feet)
  89. which literally means,
    "I am the dirt beneath your feet."
  90. (Laughter)

  91. Here's an exhibit for you guys,
    in case you didn't get the picture.

  92. (Laughter)

  93. And I share that with you, because

  94. with new languages come new concepts
    that didn't exist before.
  95. And the other thing is,
  96. sometimes we think language is about
    understanding the meaning of a word,
  97. but I believe language is about
    making a word meaningful for yourself.
  98. If I were to flash this series
    of words on the screen,

  99. some of you, you'd know exactly
    what it is right away.
  100. Others of you, you might
    struggle a little bit.
  101. And I could probably draw
    a pretty clear-cut line
  102. right around the age
    of 35 and older, 35 and younger.
  103. And for those of us that are in the know,
  104. we know that's text-speak,
    or SMS language.
  105. It's a series of characters meant
    to convey the most amount of meaning
  106. with the least amount of characters,
  107. which sounds pretty similar
    to our definition of languages:
  108. "system of communication
    used by a community."
  109. Now, anyone who's ever got
    into an argument via text
  110. can make a case for how it's maybe
    not the best method of communication,
  111. but what if I told you
    that what you saw earlier
  112. was a modern-day love letter?
  113. If you follow along:

  114. "For the time being, I love you lots,
  115. because you positively bring out
    all the best in me,
  116. and I laugh out loud, in other words,
    let's me know what's up.
  117. 'Cause you are a cutie in my opinion,
    and as far as I know to see you,
  118. if you're not seeing someone,
    would make happy.
  119. For your information,
    I'll be right there forever.
  120. In any case, keep in touch,
    no response necessary,
  121. all my best wishes, don't know,
    don't care if anyone sees this.
  122. Don't go there, see you later,
    bye for now, hugs and kisses,
  123. you only live once."
  124. (Applause)

  125. Kind of a modern-day Romeo or Juliet.

  126. In that moment, if you laughed,

  127. you spoke another language
    that needs no explanation: laughter.
  128. It's one of the most common
    languages in the world.
  129. We don't have to explain it to each other,
    it's just something we all feel,
  130. and that's why things like laughter
    and things like music are so prevalent,
  131. because they seem to somehow
    transcend explanation
  132. and convey a profound amount of meaning.
  133. Every language we learn is a portal

  134. by which we can access another language.
  135. The more you know, the more you can speak.
  136. And it's something common that we all do.
  137. We take any new concept,
    and we filter it through
  138. an already existing access
    of reality within us.
  139. And that's why languages are so important,
  140. because they give us access to new worlds,
  141. not just people.
  142. It's not just about seeing or hearing,
    it's about feeling, experiencing, sharing.
  143. And despite these languages
    that we've covered,

  144. I really don't think we've covered
  145. one of the most profound
    languages,
  146. and that's the language of experience.
  147. That's why when you're
    talking with someone,
  148. if they've shared something you've shared,
    you don't need to explain it much.
  149. Or that's why, when you're sharing
    a story and you finish,
  150. and the people you're talking to
    don't quite get it,
  151. the first thing we all say is,
  152. "Guess you had to be there."
  153. I guess you had to be here this week
    to know what this is about.
  154. It's kind of hard to explain, isn't it?
  155. And for the sake of our research,
    I'm going to close by asking

  156. that you participate one more time
    in this language of experience.
  157. I'm going to filter
    through some languages,
  158. and if I'm speaking your language,
  159. I'm going to ask that you just stand
    and you stay standing.
  160. You don't need to ask permission,
  161. just let me know that you see me,
  162. and I can also see you
  163. if you speak this language of experience.
  164. Do you speak this language?
  165. When I was growing up in primary school,
  166. at the end of the year,
    we would have these parties,
  167. and we'd vote on whether we wanted
    to celebrate at an amusement park
  168. or a water park.
  169. And I would really hope the party
    wasn't at a water park,
  170. because then I'd have
    to be in a bathing suit.
  171. I don't know about you, but sometimes
    when I approach a dressing room,
  172. my sweat glands start
    activating on their own,
  173. because I know the garment is not
    going to look on me
  174. like it did on that mannequin.
  175. Or how about this?

  176. When I would go to family functions
    or family gatherings,
  177. every time I wanted a second plate --
  178. and I usually did --
  179. (Laughter)

  180. it was a whole exercise
    in cost-benefit analysis,

  181. my relatives looking at me like,
  182. "I don't know. Do you really need that?
    Looks like you're doing OK there, bud."
  183. Did my cheeks have a big
    "Pinch me" sign that I didn't see?
  184. And if you're squirming
    or you're laughing or you stood up,
  185. or you're beginning to stand,
  186. you're speaking the language
    that I endearingly call
  187. "the language of growing up a fat kid."
  188. And any body-image issue
    is a dialect of that language.
  189. I want you to stay standing.

  190. Again, if I'm speaking your language,
    please go ahead and stand.
  191. Imagine two bills in my hand.
  192. One is the phone bill,
  193. and one is the electric bill.
  194. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo,
    pay one off, let the other one go,
  195. which means, "I might not have enough
    to pay both at the current moment."
  196. You've got to be resourceful.
    You've got to figure it out.
  197. And if you're standing, you know
    the language of barely making ends meet,
  198. of financial struggle.
  199. And if you've been lucky enough
    to speak that language,
  200. you understand that there is
    no motivator of greatness like deficiency.
  201. Not having resources,
    not having looks, not having finances
  202. can often be the barren soil
  203. from which the most productive seeds
    are painstakingly plowed and harvested.
  204. I'm going to ask
    if you speak this language.

  205. The second you recognize it,
    feel free to stand.
  206. When we heard the diagnosis,
  207. I thought, "Not that word.
  208. Anything but that word.
  209. I hate that word."
  210. And then you ask a series of questions:
  211. "Are you sure?"
  212. "Has it spread?"
  213. "How long?"
  214. "Doctor, how long?"
  215. And a series of answers
    determines a person's life.
  216. And when my dad was hungry,
    we'd all rush to the dinner table to eat,
  217. because that's what we did before.
  218. We ate together, so we were
    going to continue doing that.
  219. And I didn't understand
    why we were losing this battle,
  220. because I was taught if you fight
    and if you have the right spirit,
  221. you're supposed to win.
  222. And we weren't winning.
  223. For any of you that stood up,
  224. you know very well that
    I'm speaking the language
  225. of watching a loved one battle cancer.
  226. (Applause)

  227. Any terminal illness
    is a derivative of that language.

  228. I'm going to speak one last language.

  229. Oh -- no, no, I'm listening.
  230. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no no, no no,
    me and you, right here, yup.
  231. (Laughter)

  232. No, I'm with ya. I'm with ya!

  233. (Laughter)

  234. Or, imagine the lights are all off and
    a blue light is just shining in your face

  235. as you're laying on the bed.
  236. And I know some of you, like me,
  237. have dropped that phone
    right on your face.
  238. (Laughter)

  239. Or this one, right?

  240. Passenger seat freaking out,
    like, "Can you watch the road?"
  241. And for anybody that stood up,
  242. you speak the language that I like to call
    "the language of disconnection."
  243. It's been called
    the language of connection,
  244. but I like to call it
    the language of disconnection.
  245. I don't mean disconnection,
    I mean disconnection,
  246. human disconnection,
  247. disconnected from each other,
  248. from where we are, from our own thoughts,
  249. so we can occupy another space.
  250. If you're not standing,

  251. you probably know what it's like
    to feel left out.
  252. (Laughter)

  253. (Applause)

  254. You probably -- you know what it's like
    when everybody's a part of something,

  255. and you're not.
  256. You know what it's like
    being the minority.
  257. And now that I'm speaking your language,
  258. I'm going to ask you to stand,
  259. since we're speaking the same language.
  260. Because I believe that language
    of being the minority
  261. is one of the most important languages
    you can ever speak in your life,
  262. because how you feel
    in that position of compromise
  263. will directly determine how you act
    in that position of power.
  264. Thank you for participating.

  265. If you'd take a seat,
    I want to speak one last language.
  266. (Applause)

  267. This one, you don't need to stand.

  268. I just want to see if you recognize it.
  269. Most the girls in the world
    are complainin' about it.

  270. Most the poems in the world
    been written about it.
  271. Most the music on the radio
    be hittin' about it, kickin' about it,
  272. or rippin' about it.
  273. Most the verses in the game
    people spittin' about it,
  274. most the songs in the world,
    people talkin' about it.
  275. Most the broken hearts I know
    are walkin' without it,
  276. started to doubt it,
  277. or lost without it.
  278. Most the shadows in the dark
    have forgotten about it.
  279. Everybody in the world
    would be trippin' without it.
  280. Every boy and every girl
    will be dead without it,
  281. struggle without it, nothing without it.
  282. Most the pages that are filled
    are filled about it.
  283. ["It" = Love]
  284. The tears that are spilled
    are spilled about it.
  285. The people that have felt it
    are real about it.
  286. A life without it, you'd be lost.
  287. When I'm in it and I feel it,
    I be shoutin' about it.
  288. Everybody in the whole world
    knowin' about it.
  289. I'm hurt and broke down
    and be flowin' about it,
  290. goin' about it wrong
    'cause I didn't allow it.
  291. Can the wound or scar heal without it?
  292. Can't the way that you feel
    be concealed about it?
  293. Everybody has their own ideal about it,
  294. dream about it,
  295. appeal about it.
  296. So what's the deal about it?
  297. Are you 'bout it to know
    that life is a dream
  298. and unreal without it?
  299. But I'm just a writer.
  300. What can I reveal about it?
  301. Why is it that the most spoken-about
    language in the world

  302. is the one we have the toughest time
    speaking or expressing?
  303. No matter how many books,
    how many seminars,
  304. how many life-coaching sessions we go to,
  305. we just can't get enough of it.
  306. And I ask you now:
  307. Is that number that you had
    at the beginning, has that changed?
  308. And I challenge you, when you see someone,
  309. to ask yourself:
  310. What languages do we share?
  311. And if you don't come up with anything,
  312. ask yourself: What languages
    could we share?
  313. And if you still don't
    come up with anything,
  314. ask yourself: What languages can I learn?
  315. And now matter how inconsequential
  316. or insignificant that conversation
    seems at the moment,
  317. I promise you it will
    serve you in the future.
  318. My name is Poet Ali. Thank you.

  319. (Applause)