I loved, and still do love, learning languages. Maybe because I have spent so much time learning ancient languages or because I’m pretty timid when it comes to speaking the few contemporary languages I know, I have never seen language as an exclusive tool for communication. A smile and a polite bow have gotten me further than most of the German I’ve ever studied. Rather, I love figuring out the concepts that don’t translate well between languages. Learning a new language helps me think different thoughts: things that can’t be thought in my native tongue.
I once had a teacher in Divinity School who circled a quote of hers that I had used in my paper, writing next to it, “I don’t recognize myself here.” It was powerful. As a priest and a teacher of the Bible, I always try to make sure that the God that am I preaching and the tradition that I am teaching is utterly “recognizable.” The works and words and stories of God are so powerful that they don’t need my stuff getting in the way.
I’m all ears. The older I get the more I am forced to come to terms with all the stuff in the world that I DON’T know. It really is amazing I’ve gotten this far with so little knowledge. It’s become important for me to enter every conversation assuming that I know less about what’s going on than my interlocutors. This is especially true when we are talking about their life. You really never know what another person is carrying around.