From the Editor’s Perch

Am I not speaking English?

Am I not speaking English?

Why You May Not Be Understood

“…actors learn sooner than most of us that in the genre known as real life, you have to present yourself, or play the part, if you want to be understood.”

  – David Thompson, the New Republic

Have you ever had someone say, “I can’t understand you.” and thought indignantly, ‘Well, if I were paying as little attention to what I am saying as you are – I would probably have trouble understanding whatever it is I am saying, myself!’

There is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  And I can’t think of when I have been more struck by an observation, that by the one above, made recently by a movie critic, quite in passing.

The ramifications of the quote above are boggling, really, if you are anything like me, and have struggled with this difficulty your entire life.  What it seems to be saying, besides being like a trail marker pointing in innumerable fascinating directions, is that in order for people to understand you, you must have a personae or be in some manner group-identifiable.  That is, it’s not that you might be difficult to understand, in as much as you are difficult to ‘locate’.  In other words, there is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  (Yes!  This is worth repeating.) To be understood, you must be locate-able in a meshwork of other understandings the object of your conversation possesses.

We all have experienced the all too common human habit to pigeonhole, which I suppose would be the corollary to the above observation.  We often hesitate to fully speak our minds, utter certain words, or even speak a small portion of our minds out of fear of being ‘pigeonholed’.  That is, being tossed into a group with whom we feel little in common or share little sympathy, merely because we both have made the same gaffe.  Forever after we fear (probably correctly) that, whoever it is has heard the gaffe will lump us either with this or that group, no matter.

Probably nowhere is the truth of the above critic’s observation more apparent than when trying to explain something to a teenager.  If you are a person of great estimation to the teenager, or are an important figure in a group of some estimation to a teenager, then whatever you say has a good chance of being warmly embraced as the God’s Truth whether it is absolute gibberish, or came spinning hot off old Beelzebub’s tongue.  However, if you are either a person or grouped with persons who the teenage has very little interest in being associated with (e.g. parents) then you will be hard pressed to convince them even that 1 plus 1 equals 2.  Let alone that speeding causes accidents; or that studying is a good way to prepare for exams, or that if they don’t get too bed on time at night, then in the morning they’ll be tired.

I imagine that the human mind, must deal with rather complex notions in much the same manner my computer handles my digitalized photos.  Each photo carries within its bit-package metadata, which explain just what it is and where it is located.  Without the metadata, my computer cannot ‘find’ my photograph.  And if my computer cannot locate my photograph, then it cannot realize my photograph.  This must be something like how the human mind works.  A person cannot realize your thought, until they can locate it.

So what happens to thoughts that are neither group attachable, or come without personae to their metadata?  Do they drift about until the common wisdom catches up with them?  I would guess this is very much the case.  As an example I would suggest the case of Einstein’s friend, the Mathematician Kurt Godel, who is considered “with Aristotle and Frege as one of the most significant logicians in human history.” – Wikipedia

Godel described himself as “anti-charismatic”.    Though quite accomplished, he was a figure of little influence among the early circle of thinkers he frequented in old Vienna.  Though he voiced much of what would later make him famous, little note was taken of it at the time – even among the very people vitally concerned and asking the very questions (over and over) he was softly voicing the answers to.

Photo pulled from Google Images

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4 Responses to “From the Editor’s Perch”

  1. fishclamor Says:

    Carl I like your idea of locate-able speech—and it rings true as to why people often find what I say off topic when it isn’t…something to think about!

    I misread godel as god and thought your line a bout god being quite accomplished was hilarious!!! Ack!!! I failed to properly place tr words but it was fun!! Best to you and yrs. –jennifer w. ( fish clamor).

    • schn00dles Says:

      Thanks Jennifer. That is very funny. God IS quite ‘accomplished’ LOL. Good to hear from you. I was wondering if I would, you having a math background and all. Best.

  2. Donn Trenton Says:

    Anti-charismatic; I knew there was a word to describe me.

  3. schn00dles Says:

    There’s a large group of us. And it’s not surprising that we fly well under the radar. 🙂

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