Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hit and Miss

Rhonda looked up from her book and said, “I am enjoying the long winter.”

My wife, Rhonda, loves to read before falling asleep at night, whereas I fall asleep whether I read at night or during the day. Anyway, we were talking about the long stretch of cold days and how I was secretly hoping it would set some kind of record so someday I could look back and say, “Oh yeah, I remember the winter of ’13-‘14.  Now that was a cold one.” And that’s when she told me she was enjoying the winter – at least that’s what I heard.

“Finally,” I thought, “she has learned to appreciate the quiet, still nights with warmth from the fire, light from the candle, and entertainment from a book or movie.”  I can recommend those winter relaxations.

“Life is Beautiful,” is one movie I really like. It stars Roberto Benigni as Guido, an Italian-Jewish man who, along with his young son, is imprisoned in a Nazi camp. Guido pretends to understand German so that he can interpret the orders from the guards for his Italian speaking son. To hide the terrible truth about their situation, Guido makes up an elaborate story to fool his son into thinking they are part of some harmless game.

I have seen the movie two or three times, and I suggest watching it with English subtitles so that both the German and Italian languages are spoken. It forces an intense viewing of the movie, but it makes the experience more realistic. It would be better if both Italian and German were understood, but I only understand English and sometimes that’s not completely clear to me.

I don’t understand sign-language either, but I know enough to get the attention of a waiter or how to hitch a ride, and I think I can tell when someone is just making it up. For instance, when I watched the sign-language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the interpreter’s hand movements seemed comical.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter has admitted to being a fake, and I admit it was one of the funniest things I have seen in awhile. To be clear I don’t think the memorial service was funny, I don’t think sign language is funny, but I think a fake interpreter (sign or otherwise) on a world stage is humorous.

Whether its misinterpretations or misunderstandings it’s easy to get the wrong message.
Thirty years ago I graduated from college with a degree in Speech Communication, and I have been communicating on a daily basis since then, and yet with all that talking and listening, misunderstanding is ever present.

“No one would talk much in society, if he knew how often he misunderstands others.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832).

I dislike being misunderstood and will, to the point of being annoying, make sure I am understood. Yet, no matter how closely I listen to what someone is saying, I will still misunderstand them sometimes.
Today I heard the weatherman say snow coming tonight and tomorrow. I may be the only one in the house who likes long winters. What I heard Rhonda say about long winters was wrong, because that night she reminded me she prefers spring and summer over winter. She would rather be in her garden or swimming; she likes being outside and having the windows open.

When she said, “I am enjoying the long winter,” I had misunderstood her; she didn’t mean she likes the weather, she meant she likes the book she was reading The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1722-1834)

Rhonda had decided to reread a book from her childhood to remind her that the hardships associated with the winters of long ago no longer exist today. However, we are no closer to understanding each other.

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