The Numbers Game
When I was teaching in a high school we were expected to attend graduations wearing the gowns we wore for our own college graduation. Teachers sat together as a group and this particular year I was seated next to a very pregnant young lady. As diplomas were given out I heard her mumbling, counting as she held her gown covered stomach. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.” I looked at her and she looked back sighing “1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6,7 In between.” “Good lord” I thought looking for the nearest exit. As the father of two children my wife Carolyn had schooled me in the meaning of contractions and I related to Prissy in Gone With The Windas I knew nothing about birthing babies.
I finally had the presence of mind to ask “How long has this been going on?” Her reply was “Since the start of the diploma hand outs. It has taken seven seconds between each one and by my count I will be late getting home to fix dinner.” I nearly collapsed in relief which brings me to another point.
Every day we get inundated with polls about the clown college candidates seeking to run against President Trump in 2020. Depending on whether you were ahead or behind the interpretation was always positive. Like the adage about whether you consider a glass half full or half empty. Equally confusing is the Dow. Whether it loses or gain hundreds of points there always seems to be a good explanation. When a lad in school we were told that the purpose of math was to train our brains to think logically. That does not seem to work with polling and the stock market and the best thing may be to ignore them. It seems you can prove any thing with numbers.
What’s In A Name?
When you have taught forty years and been to hundreds of conferences, conventions and other events you accumulate a large number of names to remember. Inevitably you run into people whose names you cannot recall and it is a real problem if you happen to be with someone who expects an introduction.
Carolyn and I were at an education conference and ran into a fellow I once took a couple graduate classes with. Carolyn indicated she wanted to meet this person so I used an old trick I had in the past with success. “Hi” I greeted the fellow we ran into, “I want to introduce you to my wife, but I like to be sure I am pronouncing your name correctly. So your name is…?” He replied with a sardonic grin, “Smith, S M I T H.” I never tried that again.
Human understanding among political ranks is interesting as certain words mean different things to different people. We hear so called political debates and the same phrase seems to have different meanings to different people. Illegal Immigration is an example . To conservatives it means something done that is against the law. To liberal socialists it is a right of anyone wanting to come to the United States no matter the method.
I take the conservative view therefore another word comes into play. That makes me a racist. A racist despite my being involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
No speaka the language!
As a kid I had a real interest in South America thanks to the Walt Disney documentaries of the forties. So it was natural that I would take Spanish when in high school and follow up in college. However, the only use of it I ever had was from time watching The Cisco Kid and Zorro on television. Even then it was just a line or two. Then wonder of wonders our son and family became missionaries to Spain for eight years and now I would have an opportunity to exploit my expertise.
On our first visit to Spain to spend a couple weeks with our family I got to meet my first Spaniard at the Madrid airport. Our son was with us and I hoped to impress our son andCarolyn. The gentleman greeted us kindly and I could not understand him. I proudly used the expected phrase when you do not speak the language “No habla español.”He looked at me thunderstruck as though I slapped him in the face. I tried to apologize explaining I did not understand him saying “No entendo.” His face turned red, he turned and strode off. I looked helplessly at our son and asked “Did I offend him and ifso how?” Our son explained “Dad, there are a number of dialects in Spain and the Spanish people are proud of their own. When you say you cannot speak or understand what they are saying you imply they are inferior to you.” Hence during that visit and all future trips I found that just nodding and smiling ignorantly was my best defense.”
Which makes me believe that in foreign relations you must know more than just the language. When speaking with Russians, Chinese, North Koreans and Iranians what is behind the words? You have to know the context and body language alone will not do it. For example in India shaking your head back and forth means agreement not disagreement. Nodding up and down does not mean a thing to Indians. The question is how can we be sure what is being communicated by foreign leaders? A smile or a frown may mean different things depending upon your culture. When watching news on television we really need more than an interpreter’s words.
Communication is an art and while Rush Limbaugh likes to say, “Words mean something” there is more to it than that. The same can be true about the written word as very likely various readers of this article may take things differently from each other and from what I have actuallymeant.
On our first trip to Spain my wife Carolyn hit it off with a Spanish neighbor of our family named Lola. Neither Carolyn orLola could speak a word of the other’s language and body language understanding was limited. Yet when we were invited for dinner at Lola’s home the two chattered away, laughed and seemed to be able to understand each other on another level. Perhaps what we really need is the ability to look at the heart and soul of someone if we are to understand them. We can only pray for God to help us when it comes to human understanding.