Last year my four year old niece Lilly came down with the stomach flu. When finally offered something to eat, she shook her head sadly, saying, “My teeth are afraid of the chicken.”
We spend our lives wanting to be understood. But not all of us have Lilly’s gift for conveying exactly what we mean. Our desire to be heard is primal; a definition for what it means to be human. At its worst, communication might involve a gun, a death, and a lengthy trial. At its best, the messenger offers the receiver a gift.
Art is, arguably, the highest form of communication. The artist engages the audience with an openness and vulnerability that belies the courage it takes to create something and let it go. Their work invites a response, verbal or visceral, whether the medium is a painting, song, movie, book or more. It connects us, engaging us in conversation and self examination. We arrive at a place of empathy and understanding with ourselves and the world around us. Joseph Waumbagh said it best in a novel. Every time a country song came on, his protagonist would react with astonishment, wondering how the artist could possibly understand the depths of his own confusion and sadness. It was brilliant and funny and would fit this blog so much better if I could recall the book’s title.
Gossip is one of the lowest forms of communication. It is passive aggressive, implying cowardice on the part of the deliverer. I’m not talking about movie star bashing (though I can’t help but think, why? Who cares?) but a group of people throwing stones at one who is absent. We’ve all done it. Perhaps we just listened silently, disagreeing but not wanting to speak up. Listening silently implies agreement with the speaker. I’ve noticed how the mood in a room darkens when we indulge in bashing others with our words.
Regarding conversation, I wish we all spoke like characters from a Jane Austen novel, with witty repartee, poetic confessions and gentleness. Or maybe like Margaret Atwood. Modern, but with all the right words in our tool belts. As it is, the rest of us are stuck with ourselves, with our ‘ehs’ and ‘yah’s, our OMG’S and WTF’s. In this present day, its a compelling argument for art as the true, timeless form of communication. Whether its a hand knitted sweater or a homemade urn shaped like a log cabin, it can speak to us more effectively than anything we might say. If you concur, please comment. Or message me on facebook. I long to hear from thee.