Talking Is Hard: The Many Consequences Of An Obvious Truth

From time to time I like to reflect on the connections that draw my often disparate reflections and ruminations together.  I tend to find that I am both more complex and more simple than people tend to recognize, more layered but also more coherent than tends to attract the recognition of others.  Perhaps this is a more general case of reality.  Suffice it to say that it is no great or profound statement to say that talking is hard.  It was, indeed, the title of an album by the alternative band Walk The Moon, and it might be said that to express the sentiment/opinion/judgment that communication is difficult is to be more than usually obvious even for an intrepid captain obvious like myself.  Even cliches think that a statement like talking is hard is a bit too obvious to be one of their kind.  And if communication is a difficult challenge for me, one I write about with depressing regularity, it is certainly no less a problem for other people, since it is a problem people discuss with me about other people in their lives with somewhat depressing regularity as well.  Nor is it a problem related to human beings alone.  Let us think, for a moment, of the plight of the alarm clock radio playing adult contemporary music waiting for someone to wake up, or the plight of a car alarm that everyone wants desperately to ignore rather than view as the sign of a potential grand theft auto.  No, the problem of communication is a universal one, in that we often want to do anything but pay attention to signals that are there and want to see signals where there is only noise, or only silence.

As obvious as it may be to recognize the difficulty of communication, the repercussions and consequences of this difficulty are not always obvious.  I know that my own struggles with communication have made me particularly sensitive to the myriad ways that communication goes wrong.  Often communication goes awry because in the eyes of many people form trumps content.  Growing up listening to adult contemporary music gave me an understanding that music could be very mature in the subject matter that it was dealing with while being thought to be harmless and innocuous and even boring because of the highly restrained form in which it occurred.  This is true whether we are dealing with Peter Cetera dealing with the crushing aftermath of divorce or whether we are listening to Bobby Darin’s ode to a serial killer, or Uncle Kraker’s ode to adultery in “Follow Me,” or any other number of songs where the form and content are at odds, like almost the entire solo and Fleetwood Mac discography of the underrated Christine McVie.  As someone whose form and content tend to be wildly at odds, it is worthwhile for me to examine other situations where the same problem exists and to ponder the reasons why I care more about content while most people are content to judge others by form alone.

There are other profound consequences to the struggles of communication.  Some of these consequences relate to the multi-layered communication of people engaged in conspiracies.  This particular blog has its genesis in a time of conspiracy where, for a period of a few months, I was a rather avid sleuth seeking to break the coded language being used in the course of an institutional crisis, and I found it rather simple and even trivial to note the way that people would attempt to convey an innocuous message to a wider public while making specific inside references to fellow confederates who had a shared esoteric meaning to phrases like the “doctrine of love,” to give but one example.  Just as it is difficult to communicate enough with people, it is difficult to avoid communicating too much, as any coded language that is easy enough to be understood by insiders is going to be easy enough to understand by outsiders, and so those who want to preserve a distinction between themselves and a wider public is going to have to continually change what is cool or insider language because it is always going to expand and be decoded outside of its desired subpopulation.  Having never been a cool person myself, I have a large amount of coded language in my repertoire that others find either hilarious or deeply cringeworthy, or some combination of the two.  It is this which has led me to understand that at least some of the hostility that people have to the illuminati is a bit overdrawn, since the symbolism of the illuminati is itself not nearly esoteric to avoid being exposed by those who are interested in studying on it, simply by reading a few books on the subject or developing a taste for analyzing music videos, where such symbolism is common.

What is it that people seek to communicate when they are using illuminati symbols or coded language anyway?  Often what is being communicated is nothing particularly complicated, only the message that I am one of your kind, a cool kid or someone who is someone important whose opinions or creations matter.  This message can be easily understood, and if the person hearing it wants to accept that message as a valid one, there are various ways this can be done, through invitations to parties or appropriate honors and recognition given that demonstrates someone is part of the in crowd.  If one’s social status ranks somewhere between outsider and leper, as mine often tends to, such messages are usually politely ignored and those who receive them copy such messages to laugh about with their friends but avoid answering like the proverbial plague, so as to avoid providing any encouragement to future efforts at unwelcome communication.  As someone who is fairly sensitive to such recognition, though, I must admit I do appreciate such invitations when I receive them, as I understand that something is being signaled thereby.

All of this suggests that there are many layers to the problem of communication.  A great deal of our lack of communication with others springs from the unpleasant truth that either they do not wish to communicate with us or we do not wish to communicate with them, something which even affects our recognition of communication that is being sent by others.  Sometimes, more happily, two parties are both equally intent on avoiding communication to each other, but this is not nearly as common as the problem where one party wishes to communicate and the other is, to put it gently, more reluctant about it.  To the extent that what we want to signal is simple, it is an easy thing to understand the message and reply appropriately merely through recognition of the communication and a friendly response back that provides encouragement for future interaction.  If we want to communicate something more complex, we are faced with the difficulty that our form and content may be at odds and others may not be sufficiently sensitive or interested in deep discussion to tease out the meaning of the content or to reflect on the mismatch between different layers of communication and what it means.  And if all of this is a problem with what can be seen and heard, it is far more to understand the communication that comes about from negative spaces of silence and absence, even though these can communicate plenty that is worth paying attention to as well.  We can be led astray by our complacency, our contempt, our longings, and our expectations, and the general lack of interest and competence in the larger world when it comes to being sensitive to the signals and communications of others means that few people are going to correct such misconceptions as we have with the sort of gentleness and kindness that we would often want, or even care enough about us to correct such misconceptions as we have at all through any kind of meaningful communication themselves.  There are so many ways that communication can go awry that it is a wonder that it works as often as it does.


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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