Words words words words words. A cavalcade of consonants crash into our ear drums on the daily, hourly, and minutely. All these words are so important to us. I mean, they really have so much meaning, right? We blare words out into the great outdoors with massive technologies literally built to the purpose and plug all these words directly into holes in our heads through tiny noisemaking devises.
There is always more to say, more to hear, more to fill the spaces between words.
So the other night I found myself thinking that if I had to leave someone with a single word out of all the words I know in the various languages I’ve managed to pick up a smattering of (I swear, one of these years I’ll be fluent in something. Maybe English?) what word would I pick? I realized that the most single important word I know is not spoken.
With softly closed hands, cross your arms at the wrists over your chest.
This is the word for love in sign language. It is everything we as humans truly need, but are simultaneously frightened of. We’re scared of silence: why do you think we find so many excuses to make so much noise? We’re scared of letting people get too close: why do you think we constantly push people away so much? We’re scared of our feelings: why do you think we make everything so complex? We’re scared of telling the people we care about that we care. Why do you think we find so many other things to make meaningless noise over?
For all that, we need a little quiet to find our center. We need to be able to be vulnerable. We need to feel our feelings, share our feelings, and have those feelings accepted and returned to us in kind. We especially need to bond with others and communicate our mutual care and regard to each other.
Humans can’t help but love. We have to love, need to love, without love we slowly die by inches. And not just any love, but the love that arises from mutual care and interdependence. The kind of love where taking care of you is taking care of me, and taking time to take care of me is to take care of everyone I know and love.
Now, I don’t know if the word “love” in sign language technically has all that as a part of its definition, but I do know that’s the feeling that wells up in my chest every time I sign that word. This is why I feel that the word “love” in sign language is the single most important word I know in any language and is the word I would want to pass on to others if I had to pick just the one.
With this in mind I want to pose the following question: what is the most important single word you know in any language and why is it specifically important to you to understand that word in that particular language?
I avidly look forward to your answers.