Updated: Aug 20, 2021
“Languages, by their nature as means of communication, divide humanity into groups: only through a common language can a group of people act in concert, and therefore have a common history. The most basic way in which a language can come to thrive is called the Farmer’s Approach. All the community needs to do is stay united, understand and communicate in the same designated language, and grow in population. This language becomes natural to the defined group. It is then enculturated, learned by the young from transmission of the old, steeped in habit." (Ostler)
Have you ever played the game "The Floor is Lava" when you were a child? When you have 5 seconds to touch the ground otherwise you burn up in the lava? The 5 seconds turn into 10 if you're sprinting from a further part of the playground to another, but depending on your teammates and who's looking, you might make it anyway....
As I jumped out of my bed the other day, trying not to touch the floor because the rug in our bedroom is sopping wet for whatever mysterious reason on these melting days, I was reminded of this childhood game. It amused me for some time trying to jump my way from the bed to the wooden floor in the next room avoiding the squishy ice cold rug.
I pulled on my running shoes, strapped on my ice cleats to run on the icy ground continuing my game across the trail along the lake, trying to touch the ground as briefly as possible, pretending I was running on clouds. I started to think about how the ground really did feel like lava lately as an adult. I didn't know which way to run, whether I was coming or going, whether the ground would be slippery, squishy, cold or maybe I would step in a spot that wasn't packed and fall in a waist-deep snowbank; all of these possibilities somehow seeming a metaphor for the ongoing challenges and barriers in this life. It wasn't just about trying to get from the merry-go-round to the slide anymore.
My thoughts wandered to this theory of the "Farmer's Approach" and the enculturation of the natural language in which I was raised..."learned by the young from transmission of the old, steeped in habit". (Ostler) While you might find me sitting at an office desk, I was raised on horseback bringing in the cattle, talking about the weather, crops and gardening. I grew up next to Baba and Gido, eating pirogies and paska.
I have fond memories of my childhood growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan. We (my siblings and I) spent our days playing with the animals, picking eggs and berries, riding horses, mooing at the cows from a distance wondering if they could understand us, riding in the tractor with Dad, digging in the mud, always barefoot-rarely did we wear shoes. I am certain my mom had to bathe us several times a day to get the mud and everything stuck to it off of us. Our toys were old tires or dolls that Baba sewed; our playground actually consisted of some bent over trees and old machinery. I had't seen many movies and was brought up away from technology and pop culture.
I am certain many people in the Canadian prairies can speak of a childhood like this. Yet it seems increasingly difficult to live a life so simple and satisfying-based in a united community speaking the "same language built on experience and steeped in habit". Perhaps mostly because I am not a child anymore. But if my son wants to know something, he will ask me to "google" it. This language and the thought of it boggles my mind and I don't want to keep up with the direction I foresee this going. The dependency on technological advances, a world run by video and screens- the leap from freedom to even if your loved ones desperately need you, all you have are those buttons and a screen to see them through before either the connection drops or that's all the time they could manage looking at a screen.
Driven far away to the north in search of a sense of freedom, here I sit missing my Dad, missing everything he taught me and no longer being able to apply it to my reality. "Don't you ever dream about a life where corn don't grow." I hope to see you soon with my own two eyes.
"There will be nights that go on forever. Like your long, lost at sea never to be found. Just know in your heart, that we are always together." -Sturgill Simpson
Together without screens, talking about real life experiences.