arts, movies, music, pop culture

reading comprehension

If something I write can be taken in two ways and one of them hurts you – that’s exactly the way I meant it.

My cousin wrote a blog today about social networking and being careful about what you write and remembering your audience at all times. It was also largely about our failures as human beings to adequately communicate all the nuances and subtexts of a conversation in an entirely digital format (i.e. email, texting, facebooking, chatasticking).

Part of the problem, I think, is that we don’t, as a society, really write any more. And conversely, we don’t really read any more. I’ll be honest, when I pick up a book that has no pictures, I think, meh. (Though I do like having piles of books laying about to make me look intellectual.)

So conversation (and lame ones at that) has taken the place of real discourse. There was a day when John and Abigail Adams wrote gorgeously written prose, long extensive treaties on life and love and pursuits of rabbits and such and to read them now I can’t help but wonder if they actually spoke like that or if they were sitting there with their laptops and a thesaurus. (what’s a good word for birdbrained? oh right, nescient)

Which brings me to typing v. handwriting. I think in the time it takes me to actually write out my thoughts, ala monk-scribe feather and ink bottle routine, I have completely forgotten what I wanted to say. but it sure looks pretty. And I think that would have saved a few hurting hearts and egos which I tore into when I blazingly tapped out a scathing review of their actions, lack of actions, hurtful glances, whatever whatever. I type really fast. (clocked at 95 last time I tested) Maybe I should be slower on the click-draw.

And that’s where I start thinking, well, sure, you have to be sensitive to others and think about how things are said and why and what you hope to get out of it. Motivation is everything. If you haven’t thought about WHY you do something then you probably shouldn’t do it until you come up with an answer that is good enough.

But at the same time, I think that people need to learn to read critically. Critical thinking is a catchphrase that loses a lot of meaning, much like “social justice” or “global warming” or “palin for president.” It has come to pretty much equate to question everything you read and defy “authority” whoever that may be at the moment.

But it’s more important than just that – it’s about trying for a moment to think of something from someone else’s side, and to reason if there is a legitimate “other side” – and the answer to that is ALWAYS yes. No matter how silly it may seem to you, there is always another side and sometimes several others. I won’t go so far as to say there is no right or wrong side, because there can be. (I mean you can take the word of a psychopath over a short cute smart asian blogger chick if you want to, but she probably has more character references.)

But when it comes to interpersonal behaviors, no one comes to a situation as a blank slate. We come with preconceived notions, we come with biases, we come with hopes and fears, we come with pitchforks and torches. And when you feel that someone is attacking you, you launch into fight or flight mode and if you’re anything like me, you can get out of control if pressed.

My cousin mentioned writing out a response and then deleting it and sending the second response. Probably a good rule of thumb. I also wonder if next time someone challenges you, you take out a sheet of paper and a quill and some ink and you start writing out your response, if you will realize the absurdity of it all and let bygones be bygones. There is something quite beautiful about peace.

“Does this have to happen tonight? ‘cuz I got fight club.”
-Puck, from a Glee episode

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2 thoughts on “reading comprehension

  1. Good advice. Thanks.

    I am reminded also of how easily words can slip out of our mouths. And, if each of us humans can make the mistake of saying hurtful things, I wonder why it is so hard sometimes to forgive the offense and move on. After all, aren’t we all sinful creatures at some point or another in our lives? I guess, sometimes, it is easier to have a cat fight and kick away the debris than to do the hard work of rebuilding and remediating.

    1. True enough, Marie. Thanks for posting.
      A friend recently told me a story about a Jewish rabbi who had a former student come back to him years after being his student. He apologized for every trouble he caused and he asked the rabbi to give him anything to do as a repentance. The rabbi gave him a basket of feathers and told him to go the highest hill in the area and throw all the feathers out into the air and let the wind blow them and scatter them. The former student did and came back to the rabbi. He said, “I did it, I threw them all out into the air and the wind scattered them in all directions. But rabbi, isn’t there anything else I can do? I feel I should do more to make up for all I did and said when I gave you so much trouble.” And the rabbi said, “Yes, go and collect all the feathers back into the basket.” Of course the student realized how futile that seemed and that what has been done is done and there is so little you can do about it now. Good story huh?!

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