Languages As An Extended Self

Are we different people in different languages? I’ve pondered this quite a lot myself. My first language is Swedish, and English is my second language. I also understand Finnish pretty well, but I’m far from fluent when it comes to speaking or writing it.

English is more of a tool to communicate ideas rather than expressing emotions, although I sometimes dabble in writing poetry in English too. (Poetry is highly emotional to me.) To some extent, I feel like a different person depending on what language I use.

I don’t consider that to be a bad thing at all since I often come up with new ways of thinking when I use several languages simultaneously. Being able to write and speak in more than one language is a huge advantage because you get to know more than one culture, more than one way of viewing the world and all that’s in it.

I’m not saying one language is better than the other either. All words differ and have different uses. What bothers me is that I don’t have the same set of tools in both languages. I lack knowledge of certain words, mainly technical mambo jumbo, and specific words that come naturally to me in Swedish.

So, what then is the best way to learn a language? If you’re not able to live in a country that uses the tongue, a suitable alternative is to read extensively in the new language. Read, read, and read more! Also write as much as you can; learn to express yourself in the original language, find your inner voice so to speak. Speak out loud! Speak as often as you can, if not eye to eye than finding someone online that you can Skype with. Binge-watch movies produced in countries that use the language you’re trying to learn. Change the default language on your cell phone and computer. Using the new words in your daily life is crucial if you wish to master it!

Set Us Free!

Charlie Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator is probably the best speech I’ve ever heard, and it was delivered by a man who gained fame through silence. The words are still relevant, perhaps now more than ever in human history.

As you know, I’m currently soul searching, trying to find spiritual peace and some grains of God’s wisdom. This speech contains the very essence of what I believe to be a universal truth. We are here because we were meant to love each other, not build walls of hate between us. We are here to live free, not like caged animals inside nations we cannot choose. All this has a tremendous effect on whom I want to be, and what goals I’m setting for myself as an individual.

I will tear down all that is wrong, and rebuild a better (spiritual) world for my fellow men and me to get inspired by. This I solemnly swear.

The Christian Way

People who call themselves Christian need to ponder these quotes from the Scriptures. I’m not saying we need to let every fleeing refugee inside our country, but we should try to do our best to help those in dire straits.

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. (Leviticus 19:33)

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in. (Matthew 25:35)

Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

So, I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me, says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, Amen! (Deuteronomy 27:19)

I’ve given this quite some time to mature in my mind, and I cannot understand how a Christian could act any other way. We need to let go of the hate and act like we’re all brothers and sisters. We might not all share the same faith, but in the eyes of God, no one is truly lost. We all have chances to repent for the sins we’ve committed. I’ve just begun to take my first steps towards being a better man.

The Christian way has always been about showing kindness towards your neighbor, giving love to those who deserve it the least. I too think dark thoughts from time to time, but always find comfort in God’s word and the untainted example of Jesus Christ. I wish I could look beyond our petty differences and act truly global as a Christian ought to do.

For even though we are not of this world, we still need to act like Christians. The golden rule is the essential tenet of the Christian faith, and all the more critical in a wicked world. We need to protect ourselves from evil in a world full of evilness.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:14-16)

Real Art

I hear someone pointing at a bronze statue saying, “That’s what I call real art!”

It indeed is art, but we probably don’t share the same definition of “real” art. In my mind, all beautiful products are to be considered art. However, we may not share thoughts on what constitutes good or bad art.

Just because I don’t understand the artist’s idea on a subjective level does not mean the artform itself is ugly on an objective standard. I think it’s as simple as if someone calls it art it’s art. If you can exhibit it at a museum, it’s also considered commercially viable art.

Note that these definitions say nothing about quality because I consider the assessment of contemporary art impossible because art gets its value recognized by future generations. Besides, the value of art varies depending on the cultural sphere and epoch that produced the art.

One difference, of course, is that most of my examples are not publicly funded art. The question still lingers, though: who decides what constitutes good and poor art? I also think that decisions about public art have been decided more from political than aesthetic visions, especially in our times of political correctness. Public art has always been political, although today we are eager to portray ourselves as tolerant and open.

It is rare to see new bronze statues of national heroes adorn our parks. That if anything says a lot about what we protect. A statue of a football player is celebrated while statues of explorers or kings are untimely. This approach, unfortunately, leads to an infantilization of the entire social climate, where kicking a ball equals scientific discoveries that fundamentally changed our view of the world. Of course, one does not need to rule out one from the other, but our contemporary view at looking at things feel flawed at best.

Globalization

The business of electing political leaders is becoming a global business. A lot of people, apart from the French themselves, have thoughts and endorsements to express concerning the presidential elections in France. I’m no different, and I think this global movement is only the beginning of something new and refreshing. We see the first steps of a truly global world, a world where boundaries no longer play the same crucial role as they used to. We are all interacting digitally, and we all consume, eat and wear pretty much the same things. I can’t say it’s all for the better, but I can tell it’s getting people together in a way we’ve never seen in human history. I’m aware of the fact that I’m speaking in general terms. This globalization mainly occurs in the Western world, even though the spread of western economic and political ideals impacts the world. With a global economy comes global thinking.

A result of that globalization can also be seen in the micronational movement. People from all colors, creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds are tired of their national borders, but at the same time proud of their ideas, values, and traditions on a very local level. In short: Think Globally, Act Locally!  My micronation is a result of that notion; to some degree an extension of the traditions and values of my local “tribe” in a global context. Living in a multicultural community is not a threat to your own culture. I think it can add value and strengthen all cultures if we nurture and honor our origins as a nation and as a family.

I also witness the emerging global village in my daily life. I live close to a small town in Sweden with a large international community. People from all over the world move here to work and live. When I attend my kids’ floorball (a genuinely Nordic sport!) practice, I can hear at least three different languages being spoken. If we don’t share a common native language, we use English, the lingua franca of our time. Political and cultural matters from across the globe are discussed because we all share the same global news, and we’re all affected by what happens on this planet, no matter where it happens.

May Day

We celebrated May Day (funny name for a holiday) by working in the garden. For some May 1 is a political statement, where speeches and marches under red flags are customary. I’ve always thought that actions speak louder than words, so what better way to support the working man than by actually working!

Armchair Explorer

don’t like change, at least not if it’s out of my control. Intellectually speaking, I like changes in moderation. I can’t narrow down my interests, and I want new things to discover. I’m not much of a traveler, though; more of an armchair explorer, unless the exploring takes place locally.

If I could choose, I would live life like Linnaeus. He had a large mansion where he conducted research, classified his collections and wrote new books, while he sent his students around the world looking for new things to bring home to him. It’s not that I don’t like to travel (I love vacations abroad), but there’s no place on earth like home. I’m a bit of a recluse, I guess. I have nothing against strangers, but I enjoy being by myself or with my closest family in an environment I feel attached to. Besides, I have everything I need right here — no need to search for utopia if you’ve already found it.

Religious Symbols

Is it OK to wear a religious symbol (e.g., a cross necklace or Thor’s hammer) in a secular, western society? I guess most people, including myself) would answer yes to that question.

The reason I ask is that I’m curious to know why the same people are having vague feelings regarding Muslims wearing veils? One answer would be because a veil is not a religious symbol per se, but rather a cultural one. Then again, we allow a lot of weird stuff in public based on cultural identity, i.e., Mohawk haircuts, army clothes, and saggy pants.

A follow-up question to the one above would be: Do you consider our inclusive, secular (and to a considerable extent culturally Christian) countries to be better than the theocratic ones? My answer comes without a doubt: Yes! Some cultures are better than others. Our societies allow us to debate these cultural and religious questions without threats of oppression. Let’s keep it that way. I guess my question delves deep into the core of our freedom. Do I want to know how much we can tolerate until we threaten the foundations for our democracy? Is it OK to condone homophobia, racism, jihadism or other fundamentalists who want less open, less inclusive and less free nations? Some may claim that if you don’t threaten other people’s lives and liberties, you’re allowed to believe and do whatever you’d like. That is a reasonable assumption, even though it leaves a lot of ethical dilemmas unanswered, for how can you tolerate intolerance?

I think we can live peacefully together in secular nations. However, secularism is to a considerable extent a result of Christianity, and some even argue that Christianity was – and still is – a prerequisite for the separation of the two entities religion and state.

The Age of Enlightenment has not yet occurred in Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, but I think they too will follow the same path. (Judaism has a long history of internal criticism when it comes to matters of faith. Being a Jew is, in fact, more about cultural identity than religious belief, even though Judaism also has a small minority of ultra-orthodox followers.)

Making Islam more secular will take time, but it’s already happening to some degree to Muslims living in Western nations. They too evolve and adjust their faith.

To give you an example: Muslim Feminist movements have started to pop up in several countries, fighting for gender equality and women’s rights. They’re far behind us, but my point (if there even is one) is that it’s impossible to live in a different majority culture without being influenced by it.

Some try hard to avoid being integrated, but sooner or later things will change for all living in the diaspora. If not now, then their children or grandchildren will live different lives (culturally and religiously) compared to their parents and grandparents.

Whether we like it or not, we live in global communities with multiculturalism and diverse religious practices. We must be decisive about how we approach our cultural differences when it comes to legislation etc. We legislate by the rule of the majority, but does that also include the right to criminalize certain minority customs? We raise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and no one finds that discriminatory. Would banning certain religious traditions be any different?

Violence and Religion

Historically speaking religion has always (wrongly) been used to supporting the war. I can’t for the life of me understand how giving blessings to soldiers on their way to war can ever be Christ’s wish. The primary objective of war is to kill your fellow man.

As a Christian, I believe in the New Covenant, but the Old Covenant was more ambiguous concerning war. They condemned murder but not killing for a just cause.

Jesus Christ never used violence, and I think we should follow in his footsteps. However, ethical dilemmas can – and do – arise. The use of force is never condemned entirely, even though I think that the term “war” in the Scriptures often alludes to a Spiritual War. In such a war, all the guns in the world would be of no help.