Saturday, November 21, 2009

To Perceive or Misperceieve

People say things they don't always mean. Often times they become angry from some perceived injustice or insult done to them and they retaliate with a finely orchestrated vitriol meant to cause equal, if not greater injury, than was done to them. These things happen. But with most reasonable people the anger dissipates, and they come to regret their comments and wish for a chance to take back their diatribe. Unfortunately, once the words are delivered it's too late to un-ring the bell.

"Don't worry about trying to figure out the Trinity. You can't even figure out yourselves." ~ A wise priest I know.

I think communicating with another human being can bring a hornet's nest of possible misunderstandings. You never know if your message is coming across with clarity and precision, or if aberrations you failed to account for corrupt the essence of your point-of-view. This type of miscommunication reminds me of the analog signals that until recently were used to transmit audio and visual signals to many television sets across America: A transmitter (this would be you, the speaker) sends a series of signals to a receiver (the person you are communicating with) that can be processed in some useful way. As those signals travel to the receiver, distortions and electrical pollutants can corrupt their integrity and consistency, and the picture and sound delivered to the receiver are unrecognizable and indiscernible.

Can you imagine how many faulty conclusions people have made and are making around the world (even as you read this) and will react to in some method? How many of these will involve violent reactions? How many will damage the reputation of the individual who wrote or spoke the words? How many of these misinterpretations will go undiagnosed as a misperception, failing to yield the opportunity for explanations and clarifications. Such a scenario could not only perpetuate a misunderstanding, but it could do so indefinitely. I've actually seen a scenario like the one I just described begin to take shape, but thankfully I had the good fortune to catch it in time.

Such an admonishing is especially true, here, in the written world, where communication is devoid of facial expressions, mannerisms, and a tone of voice to help place ideas and opinions in their proper context. I know I've written things that came off wrong and the individual who read them - either out of politeness or self control - chose not to offensively repudiate what they perceived was incorrect. I have had, however, commentators that took issue with some of the criticisms that I've leveled against certain individuals and specific groups by taking my words completely out of frame.

These types of inexactitudes make me wonder how much I really know. And out of those things and individuals that I think I do know but have dismissed as absurd and thoughtless, how much of those should I re-visit and re-evaluate to form a more accurate and respectable opinion of what they were all about. Can we say with absolute and unequivocal certainty that misperceptions or misunderstandings NEVER - not once - played a role in the censure and/or excommunication of any one individual in Church history? Some people argue that in the case of Teilhard de Chardin, a serious misjudgement occurred when authorities evaluating his writings never understood them in great depth.

By the way, this post is actually about the culinary experience of eating tainted fish with root beer and scotch;0) What were you thinking it was about?


Shirley said...

Tom, this is a good post and touches on the one thing that my husband and I think is important for any two given people; communication. It is the key to relationships, to understanding, to loving, to progressing, etc. The biggest hindrance is not listening, which is rampant; everyone has their own agenda and most don't want to listen to anyone else; it results in everything from broken friendships to getting fired from a job.

Adrienne said...

It also brings to mind the corruption of our language. Words no longer mean what they are supposed to mean. Can you say 1984?

And speaking of scotch and tainted fish - I had a tainted shrimp and gin experience that will take it's place in the annals of history as one of the worst episodes of my drinking career!

Not to mention ruining a perfectly good party. Since I was occupying the only bathroom, which was not a problem for the guys, when the first girl had to take a whiz, the party was over...heh

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I know! Terry confuses me too! :-)

I know exactly what you mean. Blogging can be tricky. I think most people kind of "know" me by now, but I should be conscious of the fact that not everyone always gets my "tone".