When these myriad cultures of the world are asked the meaning of being human, they respond with 10,000 different voices.
Wade Davis, in addition to being an author, anthropologist, ethnographer, ethnobotanist, and National Geographic superhero, is without a doubt the most eloquent advocate for cultural diversity I have come across. I’ve watched this video countless times over the years and it always leaves me breathless.
In the video he speaks generally about diversity in the “ethnosphere,” but he also specifically mentions language death and linguistic diversity. After all, he says, “A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules. A language is a flash of the human spirit.”
He certainly has a way with language himself. Describing a particular hallucinogen used in the Amazon, he says “…to have that powder blown up your nose is rather like being shot out of rifle barrel lined with Baroque paintings and landing on a sea of electricity.” Grammatically correct but semantically nonsensical! He’s either a bit of a linguist himself or a bit of a poet.
He’s a profound speaker, and I always have to pause several times to think or to furiously scribble quotes, but what is most profound I think is his obvious love for all of the different ways of being human.
“It shouldn’t surprise us that we all sing, we all dance, we all have art,” he says, “but what’s interesting is the unique cadence of the song, the rhythm of the dance in every culture.”