Reclaiming the authenticity of the language we cry in

Recently I tried making a list of the most authentic moments I have experienced. One moment that keeps coming to mind is “when I cried without inhibition”. I propose in this blog that we must nurture and preserve the authenticity we experience during the moments of uninhibited crying as a guiding principle of living and interacting with the world. This authenticity will help us live a life free of fear and guilt.

We have a problem

The notion of “Pursuit of happiness” has misled us. Obsession with happiness has made us blind to the realities of life and kept us from being authentic. We fail to recognize that poverty, pain, and failure are as much a part of life as the glitter we are drawn to and the success stories we hear and utopian images we pursue. This lack of understanding creates in us a feeling of entitlement, exclusiveness and invincibility in good times and a sense of fear, victimhood, and hopelessness in bad times. We put on smiles and hesitate to cry. We speak to impress, and hesitate to connect at a deeper level. In progress we degenerate, and in wealth we decay. Ultimately we lose our ability to enjoy a hearty cry. We celebrate ourselves as successful “us” and distance ourselves from the failed or struggling “they”. When we fail we hide, because we don’t want to be seen as the unfortunate “they”. In the process we forget that we are all interconnected and to walk the the path to meaningful living caring for each other is a core requirement .

But all is not lost

Today, the pandemic has made us more aware of the the cycle of life. We recognize that in the pain, suffering and isolation we are experiencing today, there is an opportunity to discover our authenticity and purpose. The pandemic has made us aware that we are all interconnected. When we see homeless people in the street, we are able to connect their well being with ours. When we come back home from grocery shopping we care to protect the people at home, especially the elderly, from us. When we meet empty shelves in grocery stores, boarded entrances of luxury stores, and deserted interiors of beautiful malls, we begin to look for comfort in what we have rather than in what we want. This is a perfect time to reclaim authenticity.

So what can we do about it?

We must reclaim the authenticity we experience in the moment of uninhibited crying in every aspect of our life. We must build relationships for caring, rather for winning. We must build support structures that allow us to care for each other. The grammar of that language is built around curiosity, compassion and creativity. We must enjoy success with humility, consume wealth with frugality, share pain with authenticity, and treat moments of failure as an opportunity to learn and grow from.

If we speak in the language we cry in, we will grow purposefully and live meaningfully.

I am reminded of a documentary film, “The Language you cry in: The Story of a Mende Song” produced by Alvaro Toepke and Angel Serrano. It is based on research by three scholars-Joseph Opala, Cynthia Schmidt, and Tazieff Koroma- an anthropologist, ethnomusicologist and a linguist. The scholars searched for the African roots of a song sung by Gullah woman, Amellia Dawley, in 1932. The documentary ends with a “coming home” celebration held for Amellia’s descendants in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

The documentary bridges hundreds of years and thousands of miles from the Gullah people of present-day Georgia back and 18th century Sierra Leone. It recounts the even more remarkable saga of how African Americans have retained links with their African past through the horrors of the middle passage, slavery and segregation. I end my blog by reproducing Amellia’s song:

“Ah wakuh muh monuh kambay yah lee luh lay tambay Ah wakuh muh monuh kambay yah lee luh lay kah Ha suh wileego seehai yuh gbangah lilly Ha suh wileego dwelin duh kwen Ha suh willeego seehi yuh kwendaiyah

Everyone come together, let us work hard; the grave is not yet finished; let his heart be perfectly at peace. Everyone come together, let us work hard; the grave is not yet finished; let his heart be at peace at once. Sudden death commands everyone’s attention, like a firing gun. Sudden death commands everyone’s attention, oh elders, oh heads of the family. Sudden death commands everyone’s attention, like a distant drum beat.

(English Translation by Tazieff Koroma, Edward Benva and Joseph Opala source:

You can watch the trailer of the documentary on You Tube at