My dad was an excellent communicator — to me, anyway. One example? He was very worried about my mom’s repressed attitude toward sex and didn’t want me to grow up with it. He started hiding Kraft Caramels in his sock drawer (top drawer). I, of course, discovered this stash and would sneak some. Then he started hiding some of the racier novels in there — Fanny Hill, The Carpetbaggers, Moll Flanders for example. I got that message. “MAK, read these.”
I think we need to know someone very very very well to communicate with them that clearly.
I’ve been thinking lately how difficult communication actually is. We hear or read each other with all kinds of stuff between us and the “speaker” and some of that depends on how we feel at that particular moment and the general impression we have of the speaker/writer. I think we are inescapably in a giant echo chamber all the time which, at various levels, reflects ourselves back at us. And we call that echo “another person.” In my case, the less open and forthright the person is in general, the more likely I am to interpret their communication. The people I like most are the most open, but even then another person’s openness is partly my subjective impression.
And us? We change all the time. Our moods, impressions, experiences, health — wow.
Animals? Bear didn’t want her breakfast this morning. How do I know? She didn’t eat it. That is incredibly clear communication, what ISN’T clear is why. There are so many ways to look at that, so many conclusions to which I could leap, but I know my dog and sometimes that’s what she does. She might want it in a couple of hours. She might not. She might eat it for supper. I won’t know why without taking her to an animal interpreter (vet). My experience with dogs tells me that sometimes dogs just aren’t hungry, and I start with that.
I try to be as clear with life as my dogs are, but it’s impossible. When my hip started hurting I was terrified. Why? Previous experience. The pain and fear borne of experience spread a nearly impenetrable cloud between me and other possibilities. It led me to think about joint replacements and how I felt when the prosthesis in that hip was “installed.” I remembered a phone conversation with the surgeon when I was driving to school one morning. “And I’ll be able to run after this?”
“Oh yeah. You will.” Well, I wasn’t… It wasn’t the surgeon’s fault.
I realize now that the doctor who would do the hip resurfacing was selling his services as much as reassuring me. He was selling youth and he told me what I wanted to hear. Other surgeons had said, “Well, you’ll be able to garden,” and they were trying to talk me out of hip resurfacing and persuade me to have a total hip replacement. I don’t regret what I chose. It’s been far far far more like a natural hip than the total hip replacement on my left hip. And, if I am going to have a new one, it will be far easier than replacing a total hip replacement.
Looking at the possibility of having that prosthesis (15 years old) removed (that can’t be easy) and replaced, I saw that far more clearly than I did 15 years ago when I was 54 11/12ths. For one thing, joint replacement is a big business now with all us baby-boomers falling apart and unwilling to grow old. Youth is one of the marketing tools. There is fine print, though, the whisper, that says, “Be gentle with this thing if you want it to last.”
Anyway, I’m getting X-rays next week. I need information that is beyond interpretation. That’s what we really want with communication. When I see the pictures, I will know.
Words have meanings, but the meaning they have for the speaker/writer might not be what we “hear.” They might be what we want to hear while reality is shouting at us loud and clear, ‘Hey sweet cheeks!’
Still, Yeats was right,
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? — By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story: Whole poem here…
But so was Caliban… “You taught me language; and my profit on ‘t
Is, I know how to curse: the red plague rid you,
For learning me your language.”
– William Shakespeare The Tempest
P.S. Bear finally ate her breakfast…