The Tower of Babel

The story of the Tower of Babel cannot be ignored as it remains valid and gets enforced by repetition.

The language – why is it so different and why does it block our collaboration, even if we speak the same language?  No doubt, the language reflects our journey through life: place of birth, family, school, friends, profession, hobbies, and aspirations.  Hence our language is different because we are different.  Such conclusion cannot be easily contradicted, but it shouldn’t suggest that we should stay isolated in our world of differences.

Out of ease, arrogance, belonging, time pressure or positioning reasons we use too often the –let’s say professional – language. This includes those acronyms, concepts, nouns, verbs that confine the „specialists” from the rest of the world.  It is true that languages have derived out of the need for communication and collaboration efficiency – but only among the insiders.  The metaphor of the Tower of Babel challenges us to wonder why we cannot or we will not get rid of this language armor when we make contact with the „others”.

In our specialized world there are countless professions that proclaim their singularity and value.  From the moment we chose a profession we have implicitly entered a guild.  I do understand that singularity does require its own rules, standards, and words. But that doesn’t justify our daily experience in which various specialists of any kind bulge us with terms that are meant to overwhelm us by our incapacity to absorb, process, and react knowledgeably.  What I do believe is that the value of a guild can be fully assessed only by the „others” – if they manage to understand it.

I’m thinking of Robinson Crusoe.  Initially serene on his island talking incessantly with his parrot.  But when Friday entered his island-based universe, the first reaction was to communicate.  Primitively, by sounds and signs deemed to be valid as they originated from our animal ancestors.  However later on the language became more modular, diverse and constructive.  Even Robinson, self proclaimed master of the island, needed the understanding, communication and collaboration of Friday.

It is said that leaders are masters of communication.  It is obvious that the multitude of followers requires an exceptional flexibility and diversity of language, both at rational and emotional levels.  Leaders need specialists and their expertise, but they need even more their followers’ understanding, collaboration and trust.  Without a common language there can be no collective masterpiece of people.

Maybe this is the reason why the Tower of Babel never actually existed.