I am a pretty avid listener of KCRW (89.9) and every so often I am enticed by a particular story.
Recently I heard a story of Belgium.
Belgium has roughly the population of L.A. County; located on the northern part of Europe above Italy; holds the headquarters for the European Union and NATO; birth place of Audrey Hepburn, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adolphe Sax(inventor of the saxophone), and many many other notable figures ; has three national languages(Danish, French, and German); and after 180 years is on the verge of dis-union.
The country is mostly divided into Dutch speakers in the North and French in the South, with German scattered in the East. It is so bad that despite the fact that you could sit in a coffee shop or restaurant and be treated with all 3 of the languages being spoken all around you, very few people intermingle or communicate. In fact the communities have different newspapers, radio stations, and even Television channels. Even the politicians of Belgium do not bother learning a language other then the one they were raised with. After 180 years of living next to each other, but as apart as the East from the West, some are suggesting to divide the country. A Northern Dutch Belgium and a Southern French Belgium...with the German speaking Belgians fending for themselves I suppose. The irony of these events is that the motto of Belgium(in every language it has) is "Strength through Unity".
The problem here obviously is a language barrier, but it occurs to me that a language barrier is not limited to those times when people do not speak the same language. Culture, financial status, opinion, experience, ignorance, mental/emotional state, and perspective can all contribute to a sort of language barrier. I am overjoyed to be a part of a community that strives to overcome this barrier no matter how it appears. Even barriers of age (child to adult) are sought to be broken, giving an ear to adults and a voice to children. Most of the time when speaking the same language people can become numb to the fact that they can be speaking a different language. I find this with children all the time, a word or action that might seem silly or fun to one child can be very offensive to another. It is such a joy to see anyone learn from these opportunities and evolve so that they can communicate better.
Evolution, that is really the amazing thing we are witnesses to in this community of ours. Every year, month, day, and hour every member of Our Community are working together to change and learn. Unlike Darwin's suggestion of mere survival, our evolution leads us to teach the next generation to live life to the fullest. Jacques Cousteau says,
"any successful species present the environment not with an army of perfect individuals but with a smorgasbord of different characteristics disperesed through its membership. Then, when the environment challenges the species, the species has a chance to come up with the answer."
That is the heart of this place, to create a place for individuals to learn how to take on that environment (that is constantly changing) with other individuals. Perfection is not the goal, nor should it be in a world in constant flux. An army of individuals, a sea of unique and special people is our way of finding the answers and is the heart of the community for me. Language barriers may cause Belgium to split or not. Either way I do know that you need creative and passionate people to make "Strength through Unity" true, and that is exactly the people that make up this community vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. O.ur C.ommunity S.phere is one that rolls over barriers of all kinds, and like a snowball on a big hill this one just gets stronger every moment.