i suppose the platonic ideal of “communication” would be the successful making known of the weight and meaning of an idea.
to ourselves as split subject or to others.
in academic discourse or dinner conversation.
in sermons or pamphlets for a political cause.
and though communication rarely takes place, we often take for granted that we have communicated our thoughts and have heard others’.
this leads to tremendous strife.
this leads to mistrust, confusion, feelings of internalized superiority and inferiority, and even hatred.
i know at least one way of communicating that cultivates empathy and productive understanding. a way of listening-reading.
this way is represented by the koan–a zen anecdote (one in a progressive series) taught to a student of zen who must sit with the koan until the truth of it arrives to her. the koan resists logical interpretation. the koan shifts the burden of communication from the teacher (speaker) to the student (listener-reader). the student must assume the truth of the koan first, and bring her own understanding into accordance with that truth.
we all have truths. (whether these are as “absolute” as the truths represented by the koans is another matter).
truths compel us to communicate.
we feel guilt when we deny them.
we feel pain and anger when others’ deny them.
these truths are beliefs so strongly felt that conflict arises when we find that others disagree with them, or when we cannot express them, or when we otherwise feel unheard. family conflict is often incited by something small but sustained by the pain of feeling “unheard.” when others’ disagree with our truths, it is hard to accept that they have reallyheard and understood them. we can also become angry with ourselves for not adequately communicating our truths.
a truth is a text to be read, like the koan.
there is a way in which any text (meaning anything) can be read that will allow for a particular understanding of that text. there is a way in which the koan, taken on faith, can be understood that will produce the feeling of “this is true.”
truth is, after all, a feeling.
in order to hear others, we must take as given that there exists a way of reading-hearing their words that enables them to feel such certainty. only after really hearing, can we really speak back, and really do justice.
you can try it out now. trust me. take what i speak as given, and sit with it until you see my-the truth of it. hold it up against your own experience. be patient with my truth. but whatever you do, don’t give up on it. don’t say “this is bullshit” until you feel yourself click into my place. if you never click, never dismiss me.
this plea exists whenever we strive to communicate.
even in the driest writing and the angriest words.
it is the plea of “‘deny not the realness of my world.”
it is the precursor to dialogue.