June 2011

Dear Friends,

Our life is about communication and contact.

It is very often a matter of meeting others. What happens then? How do we connect? Do we reach out to others or do we check who is there and what they are doing? Our motivation can be curiosity or an inner desire to find out more in a person, a group or a community. And there is also the other aspect of communication: the listening. How do we do that?

Where do you see yourself? Are you more the hermit type or rather a group person, a willing talker or a listener? We are surrounded by people in one way or another. At times it is easier to live a more isolated life; at other times we prefer the crowd and places where there is a lot of interaction. So what is it in us that needs or wants either active or passive contact with others?

One amazing thing about us people is that we can talk: we have the gift of the speech! We use this formidable tool of the language freely. It helps to open so many doors. How aware are we of our power with words? It happens that we take it for granted, but we can’t really use it unconsciously because the brain is involved. For this very reason, we have responsibility of the words we speak and the intent we put into them. I believe we should also reflect on the listener in front of us: could we imagine how what we say affects him or her? Will the other hear what we say or will he or she hear what they think is behind our objective with words? As you see, it can get quite complex and our focus must not only be on what we say. It must involve considering how the other hears us. The main purpose for us is to get across to the audience, however small it may be. I remember hearing a little boy say to his mother: “mum, don’t shout so loud, I can’t hear you”.

The word is a wonderful tool. There is a beautiful text by the poet Pablo Neruda from Chile in his autobiography Confieso que he vivido (I confess that I have lived) about the value of words. Neruda talks about the Spaniards conquering South America and stealing all the gold there. But, he reasons, “they left us the words”, meaning the Spanish language; and the words, in his opinion, are as precious as gold. An amazing way by this passionate man to honour the occupier, don’t you think? Let us treat the words like golden value. Let us use our verbal skill appropriately and make it meaningful in talking to others and to ourselves! Words are concepts. We can use them silently when in communication with ourselves. It is similarly possible to use them without a sound in interaction with others. In this way we can put our intent across to the listener when the spoken word doesn’t seem suitable.

My question now is: can we live without words, without contact, without reaching out? Is it possible to mend rifts, to explain ourselves without words? Could a wordless intent like a painting for instance replace speech? You follow me, don’t you? We must use our tool of language responsibly and in many more unspoken ways than what we are used to. Shying away from it will delay interaction. How do you explain that some of us still want to blame others when they don’t (or can’t) speak up?

Contact is important, it is possible in many ways, with spoken words, thought ones, painted ones, sung ones, shouted ones and so on. Can we make a commitment to use them? We shall try our best.
It will enhance our social life. We can promote contact or respond to it. But we can never ignore it for long.

Contact is quite a tall order, good luck to us all!

As a story I have chosen The Blind Man:

An old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: ‘Blind – Please help’.

No one was giving him any money.

A young advertising writer walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.

The advertising writer took a thick marker-pen from her pocket, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, and re-wrote the sign, then went on her way.

Immediately, people began putting money into the tin cup.

After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said.

“It says,” said the stranger, “It’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.”

As a picture I have chosen an amphitheatre, a place for letting sound do its work:

nl36

In love and light and contact
Mariana