16
May
08

On the tip of my tongue

I was all set to post on something more substantive and less personal, but I had a weird experience last night while trying to watch the movie 2046. First off, it’s a beautiful looking movie and I’m sure it’s deep, but it lost me before I got even a third the way through it, so I gave up. Usually, I don’t do that, but I couldn’t keep my interest going.

But what happened was this: While watching this flick, I got some insight (I think) into my own very occasional bouts of speaking in tongues. Now, I certainly hadn’t planned to even touch the topic of speaking in tongues for a long time to come. Lord knows I hit the topic hard enough already (Tongues Tied,  Tongues Twisted Part 1, and Tongues Twisted Part 2). I’m not even a fan of people speaking in tongues, since it usually is so obviously gibberish.

Still, when one finds they might have been speaking in a language they don’t know, it puts a rather personal spin on things and makes you go, “Hmmmmmm.” And that happened to me last night.

Here’s the thing. In my previous posts on tongues, I had mentioned that I do sometimes, very briefly (and in private) launch into bouts of speaking in some kind of language. I’ve never understood what I was saying, but it always struck me that there was some sort of logic and actual syntax and grammar involved in it. Certain phrases would come up pretty regularly, and it felt like it made sense. I always thought, perhaps, it might be me speaking in some language of Heaven, as a way for my soul to commune with God on a deeper level than my flawed human shell can when I pray with my mouth or my mind. Either that, or I was just randomly spitting gibberish that actually sounded like a language in some sort of mental exercise that substituted itself for swearing or babbling about something that was troubling me.

It also sounded to my ears when I spoke in “tongues” that it seemed a lot like a mix of Eastern European, Asian and perhaps Middle Eastern languages lumped together. But how would I know for sure? Hell, I took four years of advanced Spanish in high school and a three-year-old child who’s a native Spanish speaker would sound more mature than I would. I can’t even conjugate a verb in Spanish beyond present tense anymore, and in school I could barely manage past tense and future tense. Imperfect tense and the like? Forget it.

So, while watching 2046, I heard something that made me stop in my tracks…a five-syllable phrase that sounded exactly like something that tends to come up in the majority of my tongues-speaking episodes. Exactly. Not almost. Exactly. Five syllables over what is probably two or three words in the language in the movie is more than just coincidence. (In this particular scene, it was Japanese; the movie employs a mix of Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin, according to what I’ve read.) With all the combinations one can make of sounds, to find that I have repeatedly been saying something in a language I know nothing about strikes me as meaningful.

Particularly when I saw the subtitles and realized what the words meant.

I understand.

OK, tell me that isn’t something that would have made you stop and take notice if it happened to you.

Now, I’m sure someone will say that this was just a phrase that got lodged in my subconscious from watching some other foreign flick in the past. But man, my memory isn’t that good, and I don’t watch enough subtitled foreign films (not even the Chinese martial arts epics in recent years that I like so much) for a phrase like that to get in my head. Hell, only pop tunes get stuck in my head, and that’s just the music, not the lyrics. Everything else goes into the mental trash heap. I’m lucky if I remember someone’s name two minutes after I’m introduced to them.

Now, this doesn’t really give me any understanding of what I’ve been saying when I break into tongues for a few seconds or a minute or so every so often (a few times a week..never more than a few times a day). But it makes me wonder what it is that my spirit needs to say to God, and why my conscious mind isn’t ready to hear it.

What is my soul’s concern? What is my spirit’s complaint or revelation? What the hell is my spiritual side telling God that it understands?

And why can’t I be let in on it?

(For those who are wondering, the image is of an old painting depicting Pentecost. I don’t know which classic painter did it though.)

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2 Responses to “On the tip of my tongue”


  1. 1 Deacon Blue
    May 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I re-read my post with my cynical journalist’s eyes and realized that if I were someone else reading this with a skeptical eye, there are two things that would make the “not-me” question my veracity:

    First, why don’t I just print the phrase I’ve been speaking and that I hear in the movie?

    Because when I run “I understand” through Babelfish and other translators, I get Japanese characters, NOT the Anglicized form of Japanese that uses letters. So, not knowing if there are multiple ways to say “I understand,” I have no context for whether I’m copying the right thing. Also, does anyone around here even know how to read Japanese?

    My best phonetic translation would be: No-karee mash-tah

    Second, if two Chinese dialects are being spoken in the film, along with Japanese, and I don’t know any of these languages, how do I know it was Japanese being spoken, particulary since the actress was Chinese?

    Because the narrator, who’s watching the woman through the thin wall of his hotel room, mentions he doesn’t know what she is saying, because she’s speaking Japanese (she had a Japanese boyfriend).

  2. May 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Man, that would give me pause too.

    That’s pretty amazing.


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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