goodbye in many different languages

Gracing Change -- A Rose is But A Rose (November edition)

November 15, 2022

Hey there!

Welcome to this month's edition of
Gracing Change, a collection of ideas and resources curated to help you become more comfortable with navigating change. And this month, it's all about language...

I've found myself recently coming up against the limitations of the English language, especially when it comes to expressing emotions.

For example, there's a certain feeling I've been experiencing recently whenever I hear positive climate news...a mixture of hope and relief, but also frustration, despair and so many other things. Bittersweet comes close, but leaves me wanting for something more to describe how I'm feeling.

This ruminating on language took me back to the early years when I first started running climate leadership programs in indigenous communities in Guatemala. I would sit listening to a string of incomprehensible words in Quiché or Kaqchikel, then suddenly I'd hear "cambio climático" or "sostenibilidad" woven into the sentence. Those words simply did not exist within those worlds.

As Ludwig Wittgenstein, an early 20th century philosopher, once wrote "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world." So how do you understand the world -- let alone navigate it -- when your worldview does not even have the language to describe it?

That's the question that led me to dive deep into this month's resources. They haven't given me an answer, but I have discovered some new language and some new ideas. My world has opened just a little more and I hope, upon exploring these resources, that yours may to.


Watch Your Mouth

Shanker Vedantam's podcast Hidden Brain is one of my favorite's, and this episode titled "Watch Your Mouth" did not disappoint. It's provides not only a fascinating glimpse into the non-English speaking world, but also explores how the constantly evolving nature of languages can give us different ways of understanding ourselves as well as the world we live in.


Back to the Basics

In a search for better words to describe what I was feeling, I recently turned back to Brené Brown's fantastic book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. In Brené's words, "if we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories we hear." With 87 feelings with definitions and examples, this book truly does provide the building blocks to cultivate meaningful connection, both within ourselves and with others.


Pawaspay (that's "taking off" in Quechua)

I just learned that there are over 70 indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing. When we lose languages, we lose more than just words. We lose knowledge and culture, and connection to place. So I've been extra excited by indigenous musicians such as New Zealand's Rob Ruha and Peru's Liberato Kani who have been using their art to revitalize their language and culture by bringing it into the mainstream. Have a listen -- maybe you'll pick up a few words in te reo Māori or Quechua.

I'm taking a mini-sabbatical over the next few weeks as I raft the Grand Canyon. I'll have plenty of time to learn the words to these tunes, as well we practice my emotions -- awe, wonder, exhilaration. Perhaps a little fear?

I look forward to sharing what I discover when I'm back. In the meantime, I hope that this episode of Gracing Change has given you something on which to pause, question, learn and/or reflect. If it has, let me know. You can reach me via email, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Until next time,


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