Little did my pastor, Dennis Coy, and I dream when he suggested I write these reflections in March of 2020 that I still would be writing an entire year later! We took some time off around the holidays but here is my next reflection. This is especially meaningful to my music-loving friends and relatives! ENJOY and stay safe and warm!
Writings by Dr. Jane Biehl (and Sita too)
REFLECTION NUMBER TWENTY-EIGHT
THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a universal language we could all learn? Theoretically, we would only have to learn our native language and one universal language, and we could talk to anyone. We would not need to learn four or five languages like people in Europe do.
I am not sure why we have not done this. I do know many people think sign language is universal, but it is not. American Sign Language is just that – American. Each country has deaf people learning a different sign language with unique nuances, accents, and characteristics. I have watched people signing Chinese sign language, and it is just as difficult to learn as the Chinese spoken language.
I researched a paper many years ago, and evidently, there was a conference in Europe where an attempt was made to develop a universal sign language. After several tries, the project was abandoned for a reason I never would have thought of. What was acceptable in one language was insulting in another. An example is a Japanese sign for brother is the middle finger! OOPS!
However, I realize there is one universal language – music. I read this somewhere about music being understood all over the world, and it sent shivers down my back. Listen to any orchestra, whether Italian, Russian, or German, and the music is recognized by all. Think about Stille Nacht (Silent Night). It was composed in Salzburg, Austria and is German! I experience the same reverence, peace, and love from that version as the English one.
I admit that my favorite church service is Christmas Eve with the singing and candlelight services. We all miss music during COVID. This is the first time I remember not singing the Christmas carols and hymns and I mourned that. My music friends are dying by inches, and I cannot imagine what they’re going through. Unfortunately, the whole world is not able to sing right now – except maybe in signing! We are grieving.
But the vaccine is here. Next year we can celebrate all the holy days, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions with our favorite songs. We will never take the universal language for granted again.
Music is a huge part of the Bible – think of the Psalms which were sung and celebrated. Many of the prophets used music. David certainly did, as did Solomon of Solomon. One scripture verse tells us they used music before they had a meeting place. “They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they performed their service in due order.” 1 Chronicle 6:32 (NRSV). Yes – our universal language indeed!