something that many people don't know

Writer: Masahito Ono

Going back to the very beginning of our existence on the planet earth, I cannot help wondering how the early human beings communicated with each other when he or she encountered another person. Today, many of us have what we call a mother-tongue (usually a language or languages that is/are commonly used in place that a person is born), but we speak the language we speak only because we learn the language in our childhood. From whom? It was passed on to us from someone who came before us: a mother, a father and the others in society, now dead or alive, and I believe that was also the case for them in their time as a new born baby. Although the language changes over time, as human condition, society and environment changes over time, it makes us realize that we each are part of and that we are the extension of the long history of our being.

Before the invention of language, how did we communicate? Life was probably more simple in the ancient time. Human life probably did not differ much from that of the other animals. I am now curious if language was born out of "necessity" or "desire".

Language is a fascinating thing for me. For how many years have we been speaking the languages we speak today? I speak today Japanese, some Swedish and English. Japanese was my first-language as I was born there between Japanese mother and father. It is interesting to me that until about 6,000 years ago, a research suggests that Japanese and Korean used to speak a similar language that belongs to the same linguistic root. It was the time there wasn't yet the clear idea of nation, and therefore, people freely went back and forth between places.

As no expert in linguistics, I'll go no further on its history, but today, I would like to share a story about two Japanese words.

- いただきます (Itadakimasu)

Some of you might have heard this word from a Japanese person before he or she eats a meal. In its direct translation into English, it means, "I humbly receive." It is used to thank for nature and food regardless of whether it be vegetable or meat - for us taking their lives - for our lives. This much is commonly known I think. But one often forget, that it is also to thank for people who prepared your meal - a mother, a chef, a farmer, a fisherman - for the time of their lives that they spent to feed us with food and therefore, keep us alive.

- ごちそうさま (Gochisoisama)

This is what Japanese say, after his or her meal. "It was a feast" the Google translates. But the original meaning is different. Gochisousama can be separated into three pieces: (go)-(chi-sou)-(sama). Both (chi) and (sou) means "to run." (go) makes it polite and (sama) is used as a way to respect people, therefore, it is once again, a way to respect those who prepared your meal.

I believe there are some equivalent to those in other languages as well. In our time, when face-to-face human interaction is somewhat happening less, we even and often forget to say, "good morning" or "good night" to the others. But I do not wish to forget to use these small words, because there are deep meanings that each word carries. Now at the end of this writing, I am convinced that language was born out of "desire" than "necessity" - a desire to communicate - with other beings that makes you who you strive to be.

For this cycle of the articles to come in the next few weeks, I picked the theme of "culture." One day, when I was feeling lost about art and its function in society, someone (an important figure in the art world) told me that art creates culture, though it takes time for the new culture to be born. 

Good morning and good night.