When I was 17, I lived abroad for 6 months on the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas. One thing that struck me was how the adults could speak their tribal language, but the kids couldn’t. Even though their parents spoke to them in their native tongue, they couldn’t speak it back. They had been taught to only reply in English, because it was considered a mark of social status for English to be your first language.
So I’m there, having this incredible cultural experience, and all these native languages are dying out in a single generation because the generation coming of age only knew their parent’s language well enough to receive it, but not well enough to own it and use it and pass it on. It was heartbreaking.
The 4 levels of knowledge
It’s a crazy psychological phenomenon that there are things we think we know, that in fact we don’t. Having heard something isn’t full knowledge. Full knowledge only comes when we:
- listen to gain knowledge
- ask questions to verify our knowledge
- practice to achieve mastery
- teach to verify our mastery
You’ve heard family stories all your life, some several times. Stories that you love, that have shaped your idea of who you are and where you come from. But have you ever tried to tell those stories to someone else? You may be dismayed at how little you remember, and end up digressing with something like “well, I don’t tell it very well, you had to hear it from them.”
That’s how stories die.
Our family heritage is our treasure, and if we don’t take the time to know it all the way – know it well enough to record it in detail and pass it on – we lose something very special. Something that was given to us for free, but can’t be bought back once it is lost.
I want you to know your stories. Your parent’s stories, your grandparent’s stories. I want you to save that treasure in a way that it can’t ever be lost. Like the languages of the Marianas Islands, information that is spoken can be lost in a single generation. But if we write them down, or we record them, then that heritage is safe. If one generation forgets the story, it can still be found again and mastered by a single person ten generations down the line.
That is why we save the story.A story that is spoken can be lost in a single generation Click To Tweet