Coming Into Language

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Coming into Language
“There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.” This quote by Edward Gibbon illustrates the intensity of writing and what gratification it can hold. When one writes, they are not confined to one certain formula. A person is able to express their thoughts and feelings in any way they choose. Language is a border for many people in that some cannot comprehend a certain language, understand how to use it, or recognize what is being said to them. On the other side of the border, they are not viewed as equals or as important compared to those who are not competing with this barrier. In his essay “Coming into Language,” Jimmy Santiago Baca uses his personal experiences to demonstrate how much crossing the border of language can change a person and show them new ways of expressing themselves. Baca tells the reader about how his life was before he learned how to read and write in order to show how it made a big difference later on during his confinement. He had felt like there was something absent in his life. He expresses how it made him feel when people would question him on not knowing how to read or write when he says, “There was nothing so humiliating as being unable to express myself, and my inarticulateness increased my sense of jeopardy, of being endangered” (Baca 53). He understood that not knowing how to read and write was a great disadvantage towards him and made him seem less significant in the eyes of others. He was confined within one side of the border and could not be creative and express himself using language. In describing how it felt up until the moment he first started reading, he says it was “as if he had been born into a raging ocean where [he] swam relentlessly, flailing [his] arms in hope of rescue…” (Baca 54). Until this point when he first read, he felt as if he was lost and very far away from crossing the border of language and feeling complete. It was as though he was just passing through life without any purpose. Not knowing how to read or write limited his ability to convey things that were important to him and prevented him from the freedom to learn and read new things on his own. Learning how to read and write while he was in prison changed the way Baca perceived many things in life. He felt the loss he had endured throughout his whole existence until this point by not bothering to read or write. When he first started reading, he “became so absorbed in how the sounds created music” in him, that he forgot, for a while, where he was (Baca 54). At first, Baca did not want to believe that he was missing out on anything special, but as he started reading, it dawned on him that language was such a critical part of life. Reading gave him the chance to visit another world and, for a moment, it did not matter to him that he was locked up in a jail cell. He could connect with the outside world for a while and not have to worry about spending the rest of his life imprisoned unjustly. Baca was able to release all of his anger and repressed feelings that he had bottled up inside of him his whole life with no way to vent them out before. He realized that language was truly a gift that he had been lacking for the first twenty years of his life. Learning language was such a fortunate thing which allowed him to escape the horrors of life. When Baca learned grammar on his own and started writing, he discovered that he had a real talent for it. He finally felt like who he really was—who he was meant to be. He says that “Writing bridged my divided life of prisoner and free man… Where my blind doubt and spontaneous trust in life met, I discovered empathy and compassion” (Baca 57). He realized that there was a mental border between himself and language and by learning how to read and write, he crossed that border and overcame the barrier. He was not confined to just thinking the things he believed in. He could actually portray his ideas and thoughts and display them to...
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