The April 13, 2011 online edition of the Guardian newspaper carried a story which tweaked my interest. It was a story filed from Mexico concerning two men who are the last known speakers of Ayapaneco – which they call Nuumte Oote. This ancient language is hundreds of years old having survived the Spanish invasion, wars, famines, floods and the death of the tribes for whom it was their native tongue. Now, Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, are the sole and final resting place of the language.
There is just one problem.
They don’t speak to each other – and haven’t for years, even though they live just a quarter mile apart.
Turns out, they don’t like each other very much. Nobody knows why – probably some long forgotten conflict solidified into mutual, prideful paralysis of soul. Whatever the reason, the result is the likely disappearance of the language of a once powerful, noble nation. The last trace of who they were, gone because two men have decided the other is not worth speaking to. A language unspoken, dies.
It got me to thinking. Might this be part of the reason Jesus, Paul, Peter, John – to name just a few – spend so much time saying over and over again, and in multiple ways, that the disciples of Jesus are to love one another? What happens if we don’t? What language dies if we no longer speak to one another? And what other words die because that word has died? Love never dies alone – it takes life along with it.
Nuumte Oote means “true voice”. The unnamed and unresolved conflict between the two neighbors will result in the death of the “true voice”.
When love is no longer spoken, truth is silenced as well. Paul said as much, reminding us that love makes way for truth – not the other way around. When love no longer makes way, truth has nowhere to go. It sits at home becoming distorted and twisted into a weapon of subjugation. But love makes truth flexible, supple – able to be inserted into the tiny spaces of terror where it sets free those sitting all alone in the dark.
The challenge is to live and speak love loud – often – and in living conversation. That language will never die, even when faith and hope have lost their voice.