Tuesday, August 18, 2009

hints followed by guesses

The written word is clearer than the spoken word. Language, as we speak and hear it, is very ambiguous. We miss a lot, we misunderstand a lot. No matter how logically and plainly things are said, the listener quite often don't get it right. Conversely, no matter how attentive and knowledgeable the listener, the speaker most often doesn't say it right. We proceed, as T.S.Eliot once put it, by "hints followed by guesses" - excerpts from Eat This Book, eugene peterson

this finally console the tiny heart of mine that struggles all my life with this thing call language. Besides the point that i do not have a strong command in english, neither fully in cantonese, nor have i conquer fully my mandarin. i feel that i do not have a language that i can use to fully convey what i feel inside my heart and mind. so very often i find myself being misunderstood. therefore whenever i have something bothering me... i normally rehearse it many many times before i meet up with the person. the many reasons and issues will all assembled in my mind wanting to be part of the final outcome. i will try saying it out loud, arranging them, sometimes it gets too complicated i might even grab a pencil and paper to help clear my mind.

but all these are meaningless because the sentence that i finally manage to string out doesn't even feel like what i want to say. the process will go on for a few nights most of the time, especially when i dont quite like those sentences. finally i will get really irritated and agitated with the many sleepless nights and just spilled it all out. not in order, to my regrets most of the time i forget what i want to say and add what i should not have.

so i write sometimes, thinking that it gives me more time to think through what i say but i have come to believe that is even worst because the tone is never right. leaving the misunderstanding worst than before.

so i stop expressing.

so i stop explaining myself.

so my heart stop.

so language is now only a piece of business, transactions, a meaningless exchange of words.

conclusion: i dont think there is anything we can do about it to avoid misunderstanding but maybe something to avoid more damage. write love letters, iron things out face-to-face when you are in a fight. the-one-conversing say only what is important, keep it short. say what-you-want as the outcome, do not leave it for the other party to assume. the-one-listening always give a benefit of doubt. speak with love, receive with love.

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