Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles...
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to....
We are having a hard time getting the medical people who are helping us understand that we went from "Gee mom you look a bit jaundiced. " to a "Holy crap, you have cancer everywhere." in just a month. They would not even talk to us about what to expect or an actual diagnosis with any prognosis at all until May 20th. So we are not as with it as other families who have been living with a diagnosis of cancer might be. Or maybe we just imagine a better case for others because this has been so bewilderingly quick? And medical people have not been very explicit - or maybe in their father tongue*medical speak they think they have said it all but really they have not.
The effect on my mom is what bothers me most. She is unclear on the swift progression of her disease. My mother was so worried last night that she needed to regain her ability to walk. She never intended to come live with us in the condition she is in. Just over a week ago her Physical Therapist said she was a "superstar" at her rehab. She could pull herself out of bed and walk, with supervision, to the bathroom. The next day she was zipped out by ambulance to the ER and has not been able to move on her own since.
The hospice peeps are here. And we are getting some serious instruction- at last.
* Father tongue - from Ursula LeGuinn
" You came here to college to learn the language of power - to be empowered. If you want to succeed in business, government, law, engineering, science, education, the media, if you want to succeed, you have to be fluent in the language in which "success" is a meaningful word.
White man speak with forked tongue; White man speak dichotomy. His language expresses the values of the split world, valuing the positive and devaluing the negative in each redivision: subject/object, self/other, mind/body, dominant/submissive, active/passive, Man/Nature, man/woman, and so on. The father tongue is spoken from above. It goes one way. No answer is expected, or heard.
In our Constitution and the works of law, philosophy, social thought, and science, in its everyday uses in the service of justice and clarity, what I call the father tongue is immensely noble and indispensably useful. When it claims a privileged relationship to reality, it becomes dangerous and potentially destructive. It describes with exquisite accuracy the continuing destruction of the planet's ecosystem by its speakers. This word from its vocabulary, "ecosystem," is a word unnecessary except in a discourse that excludes its speakers from the ecosystem in a subject/object dichotomy of terminal irresponsibility.
The language of the fathers, of Man Ascending, Man the Conqueror, Civilized Man, is not your native tongue. It isn't anybody's native tongue. You didn't even hear the father tongue your first few years, except on the radio or TV, and then you didn't listen, and neither did your little brother, because it was some old politician with hairs in his nose yammering. And you and your brother had better things to do. You had another kind of power to learn. You were learning your mother tongue.
Using the father tongue, I can speak of the mother tongue only, inevitably, to distance it -- to exclude it. It is the other, inferior. It is primitive: inaccurate, unclear, coarse, limited, trivial, banal. It's repetitive, the same over and over, like the work called women's work; earthbound, housebound. It's vulgar, the vulgar tongue, common, common speech, colloquial, low, ordinary, plebeian, like the work ordinary people do, the lives common people live. The mother tongue, spoken or written, expects an answer. It is conversation, a word the root of which means "turning together." The mother tongue is language not as mere communication but as relation, relationship. It connects. It goes two ways, many ways, an exchange, a network. Its power is not in dividing but in binding, not in distancing but in uniting. It is written, but not by scribes and secretaries for posterity: it flies from the mouth on the breath that is our life and is gone, like the outbreath, utterly gone and yet returning, repeated, the breath the same again always, everywhere, and we all know it by heart.
John have you got your umbrella I think it's going to rain. Can you come play with me? If I told you once I told you a hundred times. Things here just aren't the same without Mother, I will now sign your affectionate brother James. Oh what am I going to do? So I said to her I said if he thinks she's going to stand for that but them there's his arthritis poor thing and no work. I love you. I hate you. I hate liver. Joan dear did you feed the sheep, don't just stand around mooning. Tell me what they said, tell me what you did. Oh how my feet do hurt. My heart is breaking. Touch me here, touch me again. Once bit twice shy. You look like what the cat dragged in. What a beautiful night. Good morning, hello, goodbye, have a nice day, thanks. God damn you to hell you lying cheat. Pass the soy sauce please. Oh shit. Is it grandma's own sweet pretty dear? What am I going to tell her? There there don't cry. Go to sleep now, go to sleep....Don't go to sleep!
It is a language always on the verge of silence and often on the verge of song. It is the language stories are told in. It is the language spoken by all children and most women, and so I call it the mother tongue, for we learn it from our mothers, and speak it to our kids. I'm trying to use it here in public where it isn't appropriate, not suited to the occasion, but I want to speak it to you because we are women and I can't say what I want to say about women in the language of capital M Man. If I try to be objective I will say, "This is higher and that is lower," I'll make a commencement speech about being successful in the battle of life, I'll lie to you; and I don't want to..."
Read more here: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/leguin/ Ursula K. Le Guin gave the this address at the 1986 Bryn Mawr College Commencement. It was first published in a collection of essays, Dancing At The Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, New York: Harper & Row, 1989 (147-160).