Thursday, May 19, 2016

Today's Feeble Thought On Communicating

Have you ever had the experience of trying to explain an abstract concept* which you, deep inside your head,  understand completely, but for which no particular set of words seems to be quite right?  I don't mean a scientific concept or a political definition or anything which you received as words in the first place.  I mean those nebulous concepts which are partly thoughts, partly emotions, yet taste utterly true to you.

I have that experience when I try to write about some new Echidne theory if the thoughts are still unripe.  What readers receive is not what I intended to send.  This can cause real misunderstanding and sometimes makes me discard the half-baked theory as half-baked when it perhaps should just go back in the oven.

It's a bit like trying to tell someone who has never eaten a strawberry how a strawberry tastes.  You can compare it to banana or to kiwi fruit (the flavor is somewhere in-between those) or to, say, raspberries by adding that strawberries are more acid. But none of that is as efficient, or as true, as just offering the person a strawberry to taste.

We can't do that with our intellectual-cum-emotional truths.**

* That's not quite right.  See?  I don't even have words for what I'm trying to describe here!  It's not a concept as much as a mixture of concepts, the attached emotions and something else.  A bundle of possibilities?

** Including how it feels to be the target of repeated sexist and/or racist harassment or how it feels to be suddenly invisible and/or inaudible the way women often are at meetings or when dealing with, say, contractors.  Or how it feels to be very poor or how it feels to live with disability and so on.