When language is stripped away, or still in development, as with infants, the innate need to communicate is ever present. It doesn’t go away, it never will. In fact, it predates our ability to speak. That same drive to connect, which forced the creation of such verbal code, is simply a complex exercise in communicating very universal needs: hunger, anger, fear, love, etc.
What we say, or how we say it, may evolve as we develop, but that’s one of the few differences between adults and infants, in terms of our ability to communicate that is. While our verbal acuity grows, we’re more adept to dance around how we feel, we can avoid it. Being indirect becomes a luxury, one that’s not an option for babies, or adult language learners. And that’s how I’ve begun feeling, like a walking infant in a sea of Koreans, grabbing and crying out for the simplest of things.
I don’t have the luxury to eloquently dance with words, as I do here. Writing is now my refuge, it keeps me sane in a place where nothing makes sense, but every time I step away from this computer, I’m robbed of a voice.
It’s such a trip, reverting back to those primal modes of communication: pointing, grunting, nodding. I’ve dubbed this experience speaking in gesture, it’s a very direct way of connecting, one that’s wildly ineffective. Nearly all of what I do is left to interpretation, more so than spilling thought through words, or so I feel; I’m raw and defenseless in a codified world.
For the first time, actually the second time, I’m learning a new language and culture, it’s terrifying; high school Spanish ain’t got shit on this experience. I’ve started respecting children in a new light. We take it all for granted, the boredom of routine, simply knowing what to do. It’s a real fucking hard process to carve out your space and understand the subtleties of all those social intricacies.
It isn’t just a language though, when you step into a new space, everything becomes an entirely new world. The simplest of things can be misinterpreted, which is seemingly terrifying, because you almost rely on people’s good graces to get you through the day.
If you’re traveling, you’re a burden on the proper order of things, albeit an amusing burden, at least I hope.
But, I’ve found, the more I’m forced to face this gap of connection, without the crutch of conversation, I see just how capable we are. We can survive all sorts of circumstance, even if we’re only part of a one man tribe, those damn social droughts. Though, while you can do it for a bit on your own, tribes are crucial. Thankfully, I’m building mine. We’re a strange group, an ex-cop, this dude from Boston, a card shark that’s slung poker for the Korean mob.
But, aside from those few, I’m feeling the rub. Day in and day out, walking the streets in silence, absorbing it all, but understanding none of it. It’s a crash course in becoming O.K. with who you are, but fuck is it hard.
I’ve given into it though, sort of. I don’t fight it as much. Now, I wave, I smile, I throw up a peace sign. I might not be able to speak to anyone, but I’ll sure as hell connect. It isn’t that I really want to, rather my body is forcing me too, the same way you look for water when you’re thirsty. If you don’t, you shrivel and die.