Un Guşter

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Also known as Sven, The man downstairs from the man upstairs. The neighbour of the Beast. Chuck Norris, etc. Distributor of random thoughts via poetic parcels. Explorador y aventurero. Mephistofelically inclined towards Machiavellian methods. Too old to wander, too young to travel.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The duality of stuff

Stuff, there's a word I like. Used in the right context it doesn't mean a thing. And then again it could mean so much. I wanted to use a big, pompous word for the title... something like "The duality of Man" or Mankind "The inexorable contradictions of an average human being's meager existence." But I decided to go with stuff... because I was in the mood to.

"What are you up to?"

And that could be the beginning and the end of the conversation. So much can be said in so little words and so much more can be understood. But that's not really what I wanted to talk about... lately I've been thinking about some of the faults of communication or, rather, of language in general. We are limited by the range of not only our own vocabulary but how the people we talk to understand the words that we are using.

I'll give an example to illustrate my meaning. This is a friend of mine and I talking about a movie we saw recently.

Friend: So what'd you think about "Angels and Demons"?
Ian: Do you want my honest opinion or my politically correct one?
Fr: What's the politically correct version?
Ian: I thought it was a very entertaining film that, although mainly focusing on visually delighting the audience while keeping them in suspense until the climactic end, did also provide a captivating enough storyline to challenge its viewers to further research the topic all the while giving the less historically savvy audience a chance to uncover more secrets about European History and that of the Catholic Church, which some find intriguing.
Fr: And your honest opinion?
Ian: I thought it was a piece of crap.
Now, when I said "honest" I may not have used the best word because my initial statement was honest as well... just a little sugar-coated to suit the slightly more emotive audience what might have heard the conversation. The second one was a more blunt and to-the-point statement in my usual laconic style.

I had a similar conversation with another friend where he was explaining his feelings towards the job... essentially, his philosophy was "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, fuck 'em if they can." I will not comment any further, but I really wanted to mention that... it's become my new life philosophy.

Take another example, a colleague tells me about a student of hers: "He's a nice guy, very intelligent... funny too. If he weren't my student, we'd be the best of friends."
Same colleague, talking about the same student and hour and a half later (that meaning after their class): "I want to kill the sonofabitch!"
"What happened to being good friends?"
"Oh, we're still good friends... but I want to kill the sonofabitch!"

Of course they were still buddies... they were just going through a rough time due to difficulties in class. I won't get into Yin and Yang and all that mambo-jumbo but there really is a good side and a bad side to everything. You sometimes just need a good cup of coffee (or perhaps a cup of good coffee) to open your eyes to both sides.

I love my boss, for example, I really do... she's wonderful. But I'm afraid to talk to her in the mornings when she's grumpy. I didn't say hello to her one day when she was chastising the receptionist and she said in the nicest, sweetest tone "Good morning, Ian. How are you?" I thought she was going to shoot me dead right then and there.

I asked her if she was alright later and she insisted she was fine.
"Then what was with the sharp tone?" "Oh, you know I'm just a little edgy in the mornings."
And you shoot laser beams out of your eyes too... I wanted to tell her that, but all I said was "Oh, don't worry about it." And all the time I saw the way she looked at me, I was thinking "please don't kill me... dear Lord, please don't kill me."

And why is it that when people ask "how are you" they really mean "don't bother me"?
And so "Good morning, Ian, how are you?" might mean just what one would assume... "hello, I am curious as to how you are feeling, would you care to share?" But on another day, it could possibly be interpreted as "Get out of my face or I swear I'll turn you into an enchilada and have your ass for lunch."

Bet you'll think twice when your boss asks you how you are now, huh?

Finally, here's an exercise in interpretation for you. I was talking about a student with one of my colleagues... now, this particular student is a happy one, and by "happy" I mean she acts like she's high all the time. My friend tells me that she's had a miserable life... at one point, at least. Husband left her, lost her job and all that... stuff you hear every day, really. It's tragic, but at the end of the day, it didn't happen to you so you don't give a rat's ass. (That's right, I do mean you, you heartless wretches, don't give me that look! You're no better and you know it). In any case, my issue was that I found this student to be frighteningly annoying, but my friend was more on the tolerant side.

"You know what, Ian, you have to understand her... she's like this and that and that and this and bla bla bla. And her life was so miserable that she compensates by acting like a child."
"Well, I've lived a happy life so far... so I have the right to be pissed!"
What did I mean by that? I don't really know... well, yes I do, but do you think I'm going to tell you? Ha.