Have you ever heard someone speak in a language they were not born into? I ask because there are many languages that are so lyrical and stunningly moving that it takes your breath away for a moment. English and German, for instance, sound matter of fact when spoken. Spanish and French are more lyrical. I noticed this recently while watching a subtitled documentary about Ismael Diadie’ Haidara’s effort to protect an ancient library written by the elders of his family over a 500 year span.
Usually I avoid subtitles because I read much slower now than when I used to go to the foreign film theaters regularly. While watching this documentary about one man’s effort to protect the diaries of his family, I heard his Soul speaking to me sincerely. Ismael and his fathers fathers saw themselves living in increasingly violent eras. They decided to hide the ancient library their family cherished to keep it safe because each time a new people or religion came through their land, they would destroy the historical records and plunder the riches. In 2012 an ally of Al Qaeda raided to close for the safety of the ancient library and Ismael began to plot his plan to save them all.
It was a moving story, and I was able to witness the elegance of this quiet man as he struggled to keep his vow to his ancestors. Ismael is a Jew who is descended paternally from Roderique the Goth, a Christian who ruled Spain at the time the Arabs settled there. Others of this family line married with leaders in the region of Songhai making him a mix of Spanish, Arab and African lineages. Perhaps this explains to us why he is so determined to share the library, to preserve it. (*)
The religious traditions of his ancestors are now uneasy with one another’s societies and the history recorded in the 12,000+ manuscripts tell of a different time when there was peace in the region. His story is a glimpse of living history and a voice that calms my heart like sitting next to a river’s bank. We can cocreate a future world of peace. If it existed once, it can exist again because there is a pattern, an energetic pattern of people coexisting together even when war is on the horizon. Let us honor one another and, especially our differences, if they do no harm.
Now we get to your voice, your song, your belief, and your family. Share with your friends your ethnic diversity, and your religious, spiritual or agnostic approach to living in this world. Find the likenesses and energize them. Find a way to harmonize with others in your community, perhaps with a beneficial project. Be the voice of the river whose waters have traveled around the world. If you are guided as was Mahmud Ka’ti, the famous Timbuktu chronicler and Ismael’s relative whose ancient library was the subject of the documentary; look into your heart. There you will find your song. It is going to be a beautiful way to unlock your heart in order for you to see yourself in others and them in you.
(*) Tombouctou Manuscript Project is supported by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and the University of Cape Town