It is striking just how often communication becomes an issue in life. Today was, like many days for me, even as someone who does not necessarily interact with very many people personally over the course of day, a day that had a great deal to do with problems of communication. And as the same sort of problems revealed themselves whether I was engaging in my own conversations with others or whether I was examining what I was reading through the course of the day, I thought I would share at least some of the reasons why I think it is often hard for us to say what we mean. And this is true regardless of what we are talking about, or in whatever way we are trying to communicate, it would appear. Rarely does the theme of a day make itself so obvious, but today was such a day, and it is worthy of pondering why indeed that was the case.
This morning, as I relaxed in bed, I received a couple of e-mails from one of our local deacons with whom I have very humorous and intriguing conversations on a regular basis. In each of the e-mails there was a paper that had been written by someone that he had obtained somehow that dealt with the issue of rights. Each of the papers had some serious issues that related to the difficulty of defining terms correctly and engaging in logical conversation. Rights is admittedly a hard term to define. The first writer sought to defend a view of rights that defended his sense of personal dignity while conflating an idea of rights that sprang from the benefits of obedience to God’s ways as well as rights derived from history and those derived from the constitutional law of the United States and it was clear that the writer was unaware of how these aspects of rights were in tension with each other, to say nothing about reality. The second writer, who viewed all rights as being mere privileges, was on a bit sounder ground as far as his or her conception of rights, but even here there were questions about false dilemmas and a general lack of charity and some serious failures to distinguish between killing and murder when it comes to the obligations and limitations that are placed on the behavior of Christians. The exercise, as challenging as it was, was useful in letting me know that the discussions of people, and their beliefs to prove themselves, are intertwined with difficulties in making themselves plain and in recognize the different senses and meanings of the words that they use. And what is true of others is certainly true of me, especially given the form of short personal essay that is my stock and trade as a writer.
And this was by no means the end of such concerns. After going grocery shopping for the work week and eating breakfast dinner (more on that anon), I sat down at my desk to do some work and to schedule an appointment to get a Covid-19 test of a particular type for my upcoming trip to Jamaica. I figured this would be a difficult task, for several reasons. For one, various other people I happen to know have already had a difficult time with the test and finding the right labs that would provide results in the narrow time window that is required. It is an ambitious task, it must be admitted, and in seeking to get the task done I ended up getting on the phone with a couple of strangers. Talking on the phone with strangers is not a task I particularly enjoy, and it was not necessarily easy to make myself understood. That said, what I did find out was that there are at least a few ways it would be possible to get the test in the window between 9/25 and 10/1, when my flight departs, hopefully with me on it. The conversations included the question of which places were available for those who had particular insurance, and which offices used which labs with specific certification. As a result of the various phone conversations I ended up planning a video conference for tomorrow morning where I will have to explain exactly what I need as far as tests are concerned in terms of the timing of the test (which has to be taken on or after 9/23) as well as the reporting of the results online to Jamaica, which must take place on or after 9/27, but before 10/1. This will be complicated, but without a doubt it will be very interesting.
While all of this was going on, I had a simultaneous conversation online with a couple of friends with whom I was planning the logistics of the Day of Atonement. I plan on driving up to the Dalles to enjoy Atonement with some friends with whom I spent time this past Sabbath, and I plan on arriving in plenty of time to enjoy a light dinner with them and relax (and likely do some reading) during the evening. The issue with logistics came about for the meal after Atonement is done. Since I have work the next day, I did not wish to stay in The Dalles and eat, because the drive back would be about two hours after the meal is done, which would put my return home at an unreasonable hour, where I would still have to wind down and then get ready for work the next day rather exhausted from what would likely be a short night of sleep. So instead I was planning a “breakfast dinner” with other friends closer to town, knowing that sunset would be around 7PM and that would give enough time to return home after eating before it would be too late. Of course, the term “breakfast dinner” presented some confusion, since one would not think of these things being related until one explains that as breaking a fast during the time of dinner is something that occurs during the Day of Atonement, and for some of us, quite a bit more often than that, and it is good to have a term to describe such a meal, even if it is not always easy to make oneself understood. But when it is ever?