721st Week:  Grammar Shapes Our Worldview

We know that different languages generate different world views, different ways of experiencing the world around us, and different expectations of what we can expect from our world.  Several times now, I’ve run across the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and each time I experience her worldview I am deeply moved. She is a botanist who is also has a Potawatomi heritage and a perspective that is much more inclusive and honoring of our planet and our global family of relations with whom we share this home.

I’ve written before about Robin’s very wise and powerful sharing of the need for pronouns that are inclusive of all the life on this beautiful home we share with so many other beings. The Anishinaabe language has a word for other beings—be they trees, rocks, animals, plants, water, etc.—that replaces our use of “it”.  By having a pronoun that honors the life of other beings, we understand that they are not “resources” but are, instead, companions who share life on this planet.

The Anishinaabe word is “ki”.  An example of using ki as a pronoun, drawn from an article written by Robin, would be something like, “Oh, that maple tree is beautiful!  Ki is giving us so much sap to make syrup.” The plural of “ki” would be “kin” and both of these become pronouns we use instead of “it”.  Here’s a link to an article where Robin wrote about this: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/together-with-earth/alternative-grammar-a-new-language-of-ki

For this week’s practice, I invite you to explore your experience as you bring “ki” and “kin” into your vocabulary as pronouns to describe life forms you generally refer to as “it”.  It’s important to recognize how powerfully grammar affects and shapes our experience of the world around us, so notice what may shift in your sense of relationship to your world as you begin to honor the many life forms you encounter in any given day.  Notice the quality of your experience when you remember that water is “ki”, that the plants, crystals, insects, animals you encounter along the way are “ki”.

Also play with where you use the word “it” and ask yourself if that’s the proper pronoun for that particular encounter.  Notice the difference in your experience when you catch yourself and shift from “it” to “ki”.  If you’re someone who hasn’t tended to experience other life forms as kin, it may take some time to adapt to this shift, as it asks for a reconfiguration of how you see and engage what have previously been presented as “natural resources” or objects.  Even if you’re quite experienced with concepts such as “plant people”, “stone people”, etc., pay attention to the sensations in your body and the way you feel when you remember to use “ki” and “kin” in place of “it”.

As with all these practices, there’s no right way to do this.  It’s yet another opportunity to notice how you move through your world and to expand your moment-to-moment choices to enhance the quality of your inner life.


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