Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm Just a Boy Whose Intentions are Good...

The other night we watched episode six of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV miniseries, the novelization of which wound up in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The Guide says this about telepathy:

"The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity amongst neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy. As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to anyone within a five mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become."

This got me thinking about communication. It works like this: Person A thinks of something he wishes to share. Various filters take over and phrase this thought in a way that seems just right, and his mind subconsciously translates these thoughts to speech. His tongue then transmits the thoughts as physical sound waves, which are heard by person B's ears. Person B's mind subconsciously converts these sound waves into thoughts. Assuming there was no physical or mental interference and the process did not need to be repeated, her brain then applies its own filters to the received thoughts as it tries to understand them. This is where things can go wrong, because the receiver's brain may be changing the meaning from what was intended. Perhaps one of the contributors to "good chemistry" between people is the ability to inherently understand what the other person is saying without coloring the intent.

The process for text messages or instant messaging is slightly different. As many have lamented, once a sound wave is emitted and heard, it cannot be taken back. However, an editing process can be applied to words on an email or text so that it looks "just right" before sending it. Jerry Doyle, (who played Mr. Garibaldi on Babylon 5 before becoming a talk radio host,) once said that all letters should be hand-written without any editing, because once you start to edit yourself you begin to lose meaning. Sadly, chatting also causes you to lose inflection, which is why emoticons were invented. (I have to say Skype has the best range of emoticons ever.) I've had arguments before after attempting sarcasm in an IM without any emoticons to soften the blow. Sometimes I feel I overuse the smiley face, and that my words should be enough to express my meaning, but yeah, sometimes I just feel like smiling. :)

Sometimes people say the same things over and over again when trying to describe their emotions because even though they've said them once, the feelings and need to communicate them are still so strong. Face to face communication is the best for this, because of all the expressions and other subtle body language. Sure, webcams are fun, but nothing says I love and missed you like a hug. So go up to someone you love and hug them today, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.


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