Education - Not by bread alone

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Ariel Fana’afi Ioane

Ever heard of the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me…”? It’s a very stubborn statement that probably isn’t very accurate. Why? Words have a way of sticking to your head. I know any reader can bear witness to this! We always remember what people say to us; from really nice, pride raising compliments, to the hurtful, disgusting things people throw at us. 

Words are the human way of communicating to each other. It’s our way of expressing our opinions to other individuals in our societies. Language built civilizations that lasted centuries in time. By having curiosity as drive, we have communicated with each other using language to develop technical and scientific skills that, in this day and age, helps us to further understand what we have not yet understood. 

Using words to communicate has even helped us to understand HOW we say words!

Every human being is born with a larynx (say LAIR-inks). The larynx, located in your throat, is a tube shaped piece of cartilage – the same stuff your ears and nose are made from. One of the larynx’s main jobs is to let you talk, sing, hum, yell, laugh, bark, squawk, and make all sorts of noises. When you speak, air rushes from your lungs and it makes your vocal chords vibrate, thus, making the noise that is projected by your mouth. Sorta like when a guitar is plucked and air is allowed to move within the guitar to project that strumming noise that Phillip Phillips used to serenade American Idol.  

That’s what your larynx is. How you use your larynx, is a different story altogether. 

How you say words, (and therefore what words you say), defines who you are. A great illustration of this is the world renowned musical, “My Fair Lady.” The film was made in 1964, by director George Cukor. In this beloved musical, the pompous phonetics (ooh coincidence!) professor Henry Higgins (played by Rex Harrison) is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to change a low class girl’s accent to sound like an aristocrat. His student turns out to be the low class flower seller Eliza Doolittle, (played by the beautiful Audrey Hepburn) who agrees to the speech lessons to improve her enunciation and help her to sound more “pro-pah” (her way of saying “proper” ). Of course the two clash and have an unlikely bond…that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor…but we don’t care about the drama! Back to our topic…

When Eliza learns how to speak “beautifully” she is completely transformed. All who saw her as this peasant flower selling girl see a lady in her place. The aristocrats that overlooked her had now begun to gaze upon this beautiful, well educated, well versed lady. Some even thought she was of royal blood!! 

This isn’t just a movie to pass the time. It’s a reflection of how you are classified by people, just by listening to the words you say. It’s not something new. In every culture, the ability to speak and how to be polite was always, and still is recognized and respected. The ancient Greeks assessed how educated a person was by the way he stood, spoke and delivered. Our culture also honour orators that know how to bend the language to their will. We even have a proverb that starts this: 

          “E fafaga tama a manu i fuga o laau ma ia, ae fafaga tama a tagata i upu ma      tala.”

From a young age we are fed with words from our elders. From instruction, to bedtime stories, to songs and poetry. By doing so, parents plant seeds of culture, discipline and identity. Young adolescents that know how to be polite and respectful are identified by elders. 

I find this a struggle sometimes because as a teenager growing up in the modern world, the “hip” thing for teenagers to do now is to pepper your sentences with cussing words and inappropriate language. In a school with more than 900 people around my age, with no adult supervision whatsoever, we are very susceptible to saying things WE KNOW we’re not supposed to say, and I sometimes catch myself thinking about the words I’ve been raised to know that are completely erroneous! 

Every time I think about saying something absolutely “cool” since it’s been peppered with swear words, I think about what my parents would say if they were there. It would be quite a disappointment and shame to be a two-faced individual. A polite, obedient son or daughter in your parents’ eyes, and the complete opposite in your peers’ point of view. 

Believe it or not, this type of two-faced behavior occurred years ago as well; even before swear words were a part of our daily vocabulary. Two thousand years from yesterday as a matter of fact. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the moment Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowds of people yelled and praised, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Praise to the Son of David!” 

And yet…five days later, what were they saying? “Crucify him! Crucify him!” the same people that worshipped Jesus into Jerusalem, were the same people that ridiculed, mocked, and sentenced him to death. 

The Bible says that the tongue is like a two edged sword. In your mouth you carry a weapon that will leave a lasting impression on what people think you are like! And if you think in time your words will be forgotten? Get this! The Great Book also says, “Heaven and earth shall disappear, but my words stand sure forever.” 

Notice that we call the Bible, “the Word.” So when you choose your words, why not choose the words of the most omnipotent, all-powerful Creator of the universe? Jesus is the Word of life, which we sinners constantly depend on to cleanse us. When he was tempted by the Devil to turn rocks to bread and satisfy his hunger, he replied “Man cannot live by bread alone.” 

We cannot live by bread alone. Satisfy your hunger for truth by consuming the words of the wise, and then using them. 

 

 

 

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