9. A reading of the current language of love starting from dialogue between, across and beyond cultures and disciplines

The words “beyond”, “between” and “through”, “for whom” and “why” are recurring terms in dialogue between disciplines and between cultures; maybe they are also keywords in the current language of love. It is about entering into dialogue with attention, respect and interest, allowing each culture to maintain their identity and uniqueness; this is not to reduce them to just one, but to find ways to enable mutual enrichment. “I am because we are,” says a proverb of “bantu” language. One cannot exist without the other or worse against the other, but they exist by virtue of a reciprocity link. The author also had experience of sharing for a time with guys from different nationalities who needed to read their situation, to know that of others, to figure out what’s going on in their respective countries, and to dream of a better future. “O mankind, indeed We have created you to know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most merciful, pious and righteous of you. Indeed God is Knowing and Acquainted (with all things)” reads the Quran. It is an invitation to achieve a fraternal dialogue, one that is constructive and full of love towards others.

Maria Flora Mangano

If you want to deepen

9. A reading of the current language of love starting from dialogue between, across and beyond cultures and disciplines (Maria Flora Mangano)


What does “current language of love” mean? Can we talk about it in contemporary society, at various latitudes, cultures, ages and sensibilities? If yes, what kind of love is it?
“Current”, first of all, and that is today, this time. So it’s not what you might propose or has already been done, but what the present calls for, now, from each of us, regardless of the country of origin or residence and of culture. It is “current” for every person, without distinction between young and old, men and women, sick and healthy, rich and poor. “Current” also in the sense of beyond affinities: cultural, social, but also political, economic and religious.
“Language of love”: not of love-making or on love. But related to love, caring about this issue in particular. “Love” is an overused term, with a complex meaning, often reduced and belittled, like so many words that become customary. You get used to them and you may take for granted their profound meaning. Love between and for whom? Between cultures and countries? Or between people: which ones? Or, again, between the various affiliations: then a love by categories? For example, between and for young people, between and for believers, between and for the poor.
The questions are many, perhaps too many.
It is a frequent situation when we come across issues that challenge our person completely, i.e. mind, body, heart and soul. They question us in depth, giving rise, perhaps, to other questions and new doubts and giving us the feeling of getting lost in a maze. Within us. Beyond us.
Beyond, between and through, for whom and why are recurring terms in the dialogue among disciplines and among cultures. We may venture that they are keywords also in the current language of love. At least, in the reading that is proposed below. Let’s try to understand why, from the definition of certain words.

Dialogue

In everyday language, in many languages, dialogue is often synonymous with “discussion, debate,” but also with “talk and chat.” It refers to a spoken conversation between two people at least. It recalls the original meaning of Greek origin in the Italian language, but also in other Romance languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian and in the Germanic ones, such as English and German and the Slavic languages. In the main languages currently spoken in the world, then, the term “dialogue” is reminiscent of the ancient sense, from the Greek dià, meaning “through” and logos, meaning “word”, “speech”, a speech between two or more people.

Multi, inter and trans

These are three prefixes of Latin origin, in the Italian language and not only, as we mentioned.
The first stems from mùltus, literally “increased, accumulated”. Multi-cultural (or multi-disciplinary) means, therefore, related to “more” cultures (or disciplines). Inter means “between and through”, and related to cultures and disciplines meeting each other it means, therefore, put “side by side“.
There is a multi or inter-cultural dialogue (multi or inter-disciplinary) when we consider cultures (or disciplines) together and separately, and compare them with respect, attention, interest, perhaps also with participation. But each culture (and discipline) remains herself. We meet for the time necessary to inter-act, out of necessity (work, study) or by choice, but without compromises, perhaps, without fatigue.
The prefix trans adds to the two meanings of inter a third one: beyond. There is trans-cultural (or trans-disciplinary) dialogue when the cultures (or disciplines) are put in dialogue, so that each might complement, i.e. “make whole”, complete the other. It is not only inter-action, but integr-action, complementarity.
Dialogue between, through and beyond cultures and disciplines, according to this perspective , is not a heterogeneous mixture, nor the attempt (often prevalent in countries that are based on the Greek thought, such as the European and American ones) to find items common to every culture (or discipline). This is not “universalizing” cultures (or knowledge) under a common denominator, an umbrella that protects and secures from diversity and difference. In cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary perspective cultures and disciplines are valued in their uniqueness, which is maintained and safeguarded. They do not get confused or lost, or belittled: they are strengthened in their identity, because each one is enriched by the contribution of the other.
The multi and inter-cultural dialogue (multi and inter-disciplinary) is an essential first step: there would be no complementarity without interaction. But to this step, perhaps, it would be useful to add another one, which compromises even more, because it implies an effort out of us–beyond us, therefore going beyond our original or acquired culture and our discipline of study or work. A step towards the other.

Dialogue and relationship

In the Bantu language, from which the most common idioms in central and southern Africa originate, a proverb says: Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which means “I am because we are.” Muntu means individual and is the singular of bantu, which means “people, group of people”, from which the native culture and language of these countries take their name.

It takes almost two world wars to root in European thought the idea of the other as necessity. In 1923, Martin Buber, the Jew philosopher and theologian of Austrian origin, published the essay I and Thou , which marks the birth of the so-called philosophy of dialogue or philosophy of the other.
The use of capital letters and the hyphen between “I” and “thou” are to indicate the unbreakable bond that the philosopher gives to this pair of words. I cannot exist without thou and vice versa. The relationship between I and thou does not belong either to I or to thou: both exist by virtue of this bond. I exists because thou exists and vice versa. They exist as they are correlated.
The hyphen, according to Buber, is the space within which the ambit of each one is exceeded (in the sense of going beyond): it is a reality between I and thou, a place that the philosopher calls “dialogic we”. So the space between, through and beyond I and thou becomes the place of relationship, of “we”, starting from dialogue. It is–it might be–in the dialogue itself, which becomes relationship. Dialogue, therefore, is not only the place that allows relationship, but is the relationship itself. Dialogue between, through and beyond cultures and disciplines, we may now conclude, becomes relationship, and becomes, if possible, the hyphen that unites I to thou.

Towards the current language of love

At the conclusion of these pages I would like to share a recent teaching experience of transcultural and trans-disciplinary dialogue that I have done in mid-July 2013 Bari (South Italy).
I taught a course on communication of scientific research to more than 25 students: master, doctoral students and researchers in the agronomic field . Excluding two Italian students, the rest were from various countries of the Mediterranean: from the Balkans (Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia), to Turkey, the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) and the Maghreb (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco), and Eritrea.
The meeting of very different cultures, all born in the same area, seemed to me like a challenge exciting and tiring at the same time: to try to propose dialogue as relationship to young researchers, in the scientific field, who came from countries in conflict. They were from 23 to 35 years old, with a Muslim majority, of varying sensitivity and training, some of whom had never known peace.
The common language was English; the contents were an opportunity, often, to approach issues bigger than we are: it seemed that no country was free from wounds, often still bleeding, with the past and the present.
To speak of reconciliation with their own history to students whose parents lived in the neighbourhoods of Beirut where in those days car bombs had exploded , or in the occupied territories of Israel , still without water , electricity and gas , or who had their own family (wife and child) in a UN refugee camp in Sudan was unforgettable. As it was to propose to come out of themselves and meet the other to those who came from Cairo and suffered because of the repeated clashes, claiming, Towards the current language of love

At the conclusion of these pages I would like to share a recent teaching experience of transcultural and trans-disciplinary dialogue that I have done in mid-July 2013 Bari (South Italy).
I taught a course on communication of scientific research to more than 25 students: master, doctoral students and researchers in the agronomic field . Excluding two Italian students, the rest were from various countries of the Mediterranean: from the Balkans (Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia), to Turkey, the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) and the Maghreb (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco), and Eritrea.
The meeting of very different cultures, all born in the same area, seemed to me like a challenge exciting and tiring at the same time: to try to propose dialogue as relationship to young researchers, in the scientific field, who came from countries in conflict. They were from 23 to 35 years old, with a Muslim majority, of varying sensitivity and training, some of whom had never known peace.
The common language was English; the contents were an opportunity, often, to approach issues bigger than we are: it seemed that no country was free from wounds, often still bleeding, with the past and the present.
To speak of reconciliation with their own history to students whose parents lived in the neighbourhoods of Beirut where in those days car bombs had exploded , or in the occupied territories of Israel , still without water , electricity and gas , or who had their own family (wife and child) in a UN refugee camp in Sudan was unforgettable. As it was to propose to come out of themselves and meet the other to those who came from Cairo and suffered because of the repeated clashes, claiming, however, the inevitability of conflict and the impossibility of a democratic mediation, without violence.
The lesson lasted much more than the daily eight hours, and went on during meals and after dinner, with talks until late.
In those days Ramadan began: the majority of students in the university campus observed it and also half of our class. It meant to lighten the daily load, since they could not drink water or eat during daylight hours. I asked some students to participate in the evening prayer, the only one of the five daily times under the Ramadan that we could share. Their response was enthusiastic. They explained me the ritual, which takes place in separate places for women and men. At the end of the hour of prayer, chanted by more students in turn, they asked me what I had experienced. “For believers of every religion, prayer is the highest moment of dialogue.” – I mentioned them – “There is no difference among Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayer. Not even between the Hindu and Buddhist one. It is a sacred moment of silence and recollection, which surpasses understanding and gives joy and peace.” They agreed and with some it was also possible to mention the issues of religious fundamentalism, ideology, hatred against Israel, especially for students of Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.
I suggested to the students to live the two-year master’s degree, in Bari, as an opportunity towards the other. Without forgetting their homeland, but trying to turn the page and write on a new blank one, of which they could be the protagonists. They could compose it together, starting with the history of each one with the other, if they wanted to. We were in the garden in the late evening, at the end of the course and around an ice cream. The class was not full, but we have immortalized the moment with photos of smiling faces, free–maybe–, and happy–who knows.
Clashes in Cairo are going on even while I am writing these pages, along with the unresolved conflicts in Syria and Sudan, just keeping to the most recent ones. And the landings on the Italian coast of migrants from many countries of Africa are continuing.
I do not know if the language that we tried to use in those days was the language of love. I know it is current, of this time filled with conflicts, wounds and contradictions. But also with hope and trust. One Lebanese student sent me a verse of the Qur’an a few days ago, which sounds more or less like this: “O mankind, indeed We have created you … to know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most merciful, pious and righteous of you. Indeed God is Knowing and Acquainted (with all things) .”
Here is a warning which reminds us that we are on the way, everyone, towards the current language of love between, through and beyond each of us.

Maria Flora Mangano

This post is also available in: Italian Spanish Portuguese (Brazil)