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SpaceLogo Sciences Participating with Arts & Culture in Education

By Sarah Schipper August 7, 2019

Thunderstorm

Booming voices, thunderous shouts, dripping sarcasm and raging thoughts bombard our senses in modern communication. The result is nothing but echoing silence. Every word is a raindrop drowned out in the din.

Every individual has a unique perspective from which we could all learn, but we do not listen. Different languages, cultures, nationalities, ethnicities and people offer not only the risk of conflict but also the opportunity to forge relationships and understanding. When we listen to each other, we can reverse the tide, push back segregation, racism, xenophobia and encourage empathy. When we don’t, words lose meaning, become fragmented from each other, like shards, as they crescendo into a roaring, overwhelming thunderstorm.

Like glass, words can be sharp and jagged, painful and destructive. They can also be smooth and crafted, reflective and beautiful. Molded into weapons of war or of peace. When words are both spoken and listened to with empathy, they allow us to see others' perspectives through the rain of our swirling conversations.

See yourself and others through the rain. Wield your words for empathy and listen to the perspectives of others. End the thunderstorm and open space for a rainbow.

Sources: "If I speak I am condemned, if I stay silent I am damned" - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

***

 

The boom of thunder rumbles as the crash of lightning strikes just outside our walls

Inside, phones ring, voices rant, pens scratch, feet stomp, forks clatter as rain falls and falls

I sit frozen on the steps by the door—eyes wide, unblinking—heart pounding, I'm rethinking

While around me the deadliest silence persists through the loudest of noises.

Hand outstretched, I reach for every flower withering under the weight of the steady downpour and every raindrop subject to the force of gravity pulling it downward.

My name is called over the click of a remote and the garbled words of a newscaster and suddenly, I become a part of the noise, the denial.

Some may say that denial seals its hostage's lips and blocks out the world, but what better to distract and dissuade and deflect from the world...than the world itself. Bring in the noise, the hustle and bustle and buzz and no one will notice the utter silence.

Denial, the Nile in which we bask where there is no whisper of a storm. And I conform as I deform my mental clarity into nothing but a charity to which I donate monetarily as I drown out the thunder in an absence of severity.

 

Onomatopoeias lay on the tips of tongues and without hesitation create conversation linking language to sound to fill the silence.

Language, an umbrella, protects a path through the rain that pours heavy as bullets and sharp as vitriolic voices
Without vocabulary, there would be no allies, no antidotes, no trade, no travel, no knowledge, no networking, no evolution and no empathy.
Yet we hoard our language in a cave empty of compassion and leave others in the rain. Vocabulary another inheritance, another privilege, another shelter.
In 1995, the linguistic divide between children on welfare and well-off children was a difference of 1537 words heard per hour. That's 3.5 times more words learnt per hour by those living cheque paid to cheque paid than those living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.
Today a total of 30 million words creates chasms in kindergarten classrooms.
And this gap in vocabulary is expanding exponentially.
While the poor are not provided with such a plentiful proverbial platter, the rich relinquish leverage on language and opt the for opposition, silence. The wealthy have the means to make change and master mercy yet miserably become mercenaries marching to their own music. The average adolescent's lexicon is littered with "but um, like um, so um...", scattered with senseless syllables and abhorrent abbreviations.

...

Words can be wielded as weapons, piercing dampness that seeps into one's bones. Words can be wielded as warnings, first drops that signal storm up ahead. Words can be wielded as walls, a haze that builds up curtains of blurry distortions. Words can be wielded as warmth, a blanket that envelops one in comfort and bestows compassion.

There are so many words that tie to so many emotions and yet there are so many emotions lacking words in the English language. Who here has felt butterflies when talking to someone attractive? Tagalog's word "KILIG" summarizes this active. Balinese's "RAMÉ" knows the overwhelming feeling of simultaneous chaos and joy. Where "MUDITĀ" in Sanskrit understands feeling joy on someone else's behalf. These feelings link cultures, languages and peoples through the shared understanding of an emotion that we could and should learn to embrace through language.

Then there are so many words for emotions that we still cannot seem to fully explain. The odd sensation of "rubatosis", the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat, can keep you in a daze. The simultaneously invasive and vulnerable feeling of "opia", the ambiguous intensity of looking someone directly in the eye, will redirect your gaze. The stark realization of "sonder", that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own, will evaporate your askance. The calming of "chrysalism", the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm, can keep you in a trance.

 

The thunderstorm continues on outside where war and destruction and rage and passion and beauty and art collide. Where so many souls are drowned in the downpour and those indoors look in rather than through the glass of the windows, seeing only their own reflections. "If I speak, I am condemned, if I stay silent, I am damned" as puddles create oceans with no more sight of land.

 

If umbrellas fill the sky till not a drop can touch a petal

If we reach out to one another with our words instead of metal
If we fill noisy silence with compassion and suggestions
If we learn from other cultures nameless emotions create questions
The sharp raindrops dissipate and warning drops dissolve,
The blurry walls come crashing down and empathy evolves.
Jargon, lexicon, language and vocabulary
make sense of our emotions and reinstates the dictionary
Words are the building blocks of humanity as simple as hello
Can cause a thunderstorm to cease and the creation of a rainbow.


Listen here to the audio recording of the poem.

About the author

Sarah Schipper is a first year environmental sciences student at Dawson College. An aspiring doctor, she harnesses her creative energy through written work as well as theatrical and musical performances. Her admiration for the Arts sparks off the page through this inspiring poem. 

Acknowledgements

Gabriel Bensimon (Dawson Health Sciences student, 2nd year) for his equal participation in creating the art piece.
Sarah de Guzman for her time, expertise and dedication towards perfecting the auditory recording.
Andrew Katz for his guidance, support and advice on the poem and the entirety of this project.
Photos by Frank Mulvey

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