The other night I watched an episode of the TV series Haven – a show about a place whose residents suffer from some very bizarre troubles. They’re cursed, and the curses pass from generation to generation, however these curses are often dormant until a stressful life event triggers them. The victims of these troubles are usually other people rather than the troubled person – although they are also a victim, and they can’t always control what happens once the trouble has been triggered.
The other night one of the characters was afflicted with a trouble which caused him to speak gibberish. He was talking normally as far as he was concerned, but the effect of the trouble was to scramble his words so that those who heard him just heard a jumble of words which were nonsensical.
This made me gaffaw… because I could relate personally to his experience.
I don’t know when I first became aware of it, but it was early on when I was still a child. When I spoke, other people seemed incapable of understanding me even though I was certain that I sounded coherent. That I was using real words and putting them in a intelligible order when constructing my sentences. But the looks people gave me when I spoke were predominantly quizzical.
I thought at the time that this problem was due to my age and my level of learning – I still had a lot to learn about language and everything else. And it probably didn’t help that I grew up bilingual and regularly mixed the languages together.
This was one of the earliest riddles of my life which I encountered and decided to try to solve – I still haven’t solved it, but I have gathered a giant mental file connected to it.
As a child I came across a wonderful little ditty which summed this life riddle up for me – Ask me a riddle and I will reply “Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie!” – I used to hum that to myself all the time, especially when I was asked a question to which I knew my reply would sound like nonsense to the querent.
I got used to the problem, in that getting used to a thing to which we’ll never be used to, and I never stopped trying to solve it… mostly by trying to figure out what was wrong with my communication system and then trying to fix it. Some of my fixes seemed to work, briefly, sporadically – which caused a surge of excitement that inevitably scrambled my system up again.
Once, my English teacher set our class an assignment – to write a tale about a family. I wrote a story about a rabbit family. When my teacher handed it back to me, she remarked that although she liked my story, it hadn’t quite fit the brief and had not quite been what she had meant when she had set the assignment. I struggled a bit to understand her – she had asked for a tale about a family and that is exactly what I had given her – yes, they were rabbits instead of humans… but she had not, as far as I could recall, specified that the family had to be human, and I really didn’t want to write about a human family as I only had mine as a reference point and if she thought a rabbit family didn’t make sense or fit the brief…
I knew enough about the families of my child peers to know there was something abnormal about mine. However, later I would find out that the families which seemed normal to me at that time, compared to mine… were perhaps an abnormal which was better at pretending to appear normal. My family never made the effort to be normal, they were anti-normal, and pro-special and extraordinary. They saw themselves as setting the standard for a new normal no one else would be able to reach.
Their desire to be extraordinary instilled me with a desire to be ordinary – such is life and family, and a child’s tendency to rebel against the norm of their family to define themselves as being a separate entity from the collective. We all like to belong… but we want to belong as an individual. Or something like that.
I could write so much about this riddle of my life that it would fill reams and reams of cyber paper – remember that giant mental file – and I probably have filled many posts with expressions of it, but most of it sounds like blundering balderdash and galumphing gibberish. A lot of it is. That is something I have learned along the way – I do speak nonsense.
Speaking nonsense has a flip side – I can understand nonsense, and it makes sense to me. It’s not about cracking the encryption cypher of someone else’s speech, it’s more about tuning into a certain frequency.
Just as in that episode of Haven – the viewer knew what the character afflicted by the trouble of speaking gibberish was saying. The viewer knew because we were aware of the story of that character, and of the situation being covered by the episode. Understanding does not rely on speech alone, communication is done with more than just words. We just need to listen with our other senses… and what is unclear to our ears becomes clear to our inner eyes if they are seeking to understand rather than not understand.
One of the biggest obstacles in communication is ourselves. We often get in our own way, and get in the way of others communicating with us.
Not just others as in other humans, but others as in everything which is a part of life on Earth and which communicates.
If you have a pet, you know what your pet is saying to you – unless you decide that you don’t because to you a meow (hopefully it’s your cat making that sound and not your gerbil) is just a sound with no meaning. If you have a baby, you know the frequency of their every cry, you know what they are saying without using words – unless you decide that all cries are just cries (and maybe you wish cries were silent). If you are a gardener, you know the language of weather, seasons and plants, and you won’t try to impose your will without listening first – move a plant which is not ready to be moved and you may end up with death on your hands.
Try to make someone hear a point you are making, and if they are not ready to hear it, they won’t hear your words but the sound of your actions – they will hear your will trying to bend their will to yours, and their will will defend itself just as yours would if the tables were turned. If someone did what you are doing to them to you… you’d see the wrong in it, but when you do it to them, you perhaps wouldn’t see anything wrong with that, however you do think it is wrong that they are not listening to you because you are right. Maybe you are… but being right is not always right. It may not be the right time for it.
Moving that plant may be the right thing to do… just not right now.
Am I any better at communicating these days than I was once upon a time?
I am better at communicating with myself as I’ve finally tuned into my own frequency… there is still room for improvement there, still some code to decipher.
As for my communication with others… you tell me, and hopefully I’ll be tuned into your frequency enough to understand you.