We crave belonging. As crazy-distracting and decisive as the world is, it’s easy to forget this simple fact. Deep down we want to be accepted and feel part of a tribe. I had an amazing opportunity to dig into what it takes to connect to very different groups by talking to someone who has done the extreme version of this. Bruce Parry had travelled to some of the most remote places on planet Earth and inserted himself into wildly foreign communities. For some of these tribes, meeting him was “first contact” of any outsider not part of their tribe. Imagine making connection with groups of people where you don’t speak their language, look very different, don’t eat their food or wear their clothes. How would you do it? What could you learn about yourself by making those connections?
As we begin to heal on the other side of a painful presidential election, we're left with deep cultural divides that frankly have been growing there for a while. So it's worth taking a giant step back and examining ourselves and the insulated bubbles we've put ourselves in. As comfortable as this social insulation is, it--along with a culture of intense sensitivity that lobotomizes what we say for fear of offending others-- keeps us from the free exchange of ideas. Instead we perceive someone with even the smallest deviation from our point of view as "one of them.” While those with extreme liberal views fight for a unrealistic level of absolute inclusion which flies in face of our objective differences, extreme conservatives feel their side of the coin is just as right and they passionately defending their own strict point of view and seek inclusion as well. Both sides arm themselves with friends and Facebook feeds which reinforce and fuel what they already believe. It’s worth taking a step out of that fray and examining ourselves and yes— fearlessly climbing out of our safe and comfy pods to try to understand and accept people who are different.
Language used to evolve slowly back when we were far-flung. Wide-spread human contact was made through one civilization taking over another. That’s drastically different, today. New words can take over the planet literally in minutes. While that speed is incredible, it’s even more so when you stop and think about the fact that new words and analogies are little shift our points of view— gay vs same-sex, criminals vs justice-involved, murder vs honor-killing. While new words flow like rapids, filling new spaces or displacing old ideas, and as English becomes a global platform— our human experience is shaped and reshaped within even within our own lifetime. Anne Curzan studies the history of English, the evolution of slang and it’s migration over time. She’s the author of several books on language including her latest, “Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History” as well as co-hosting “That’s What They Say” on Michigan’s NPR.