Friday, July 22, 2016

Communication is Futile

Amie Barrodale precedes her new collection of stories, “You Are Having a Good Time,” with an epigraph attributed to a Bhutanese lama by the name of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche: “There is no such thing as communication. There are only two things. There is a successful miscommunication, and unsuccessful miscommunication. And when you have unsuccessful miscommunication, you are having a good time.” All of the stories in this stark and cutting collection grapple with our failure to communicate, and investigate not merely the woeful inefficiency of language itself (although that’s bad enough) but also the inherent impossibility of truly understanding another person’s internal state.Nicolas Mancusi

A large percentage of communication is non-verbal (the exact number is up for debate). That's why I find texting exhausting; lacking the quirk of my eyebrow, the twitch of my nose, the flick of my fingers—emojis don't always do the job right—I am positive my message is coming out wrong. 

Not only that, we don't know, even when we think we know, where other people are coming from. How can we communicate successfully when vocabulary means different things to different people, when different experiences excite different reactions, when what is hateful to me is bliss to you? 

We might as well just try to have a good time, then.  

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