A Curious Notion: Listening, Hearing, and the Burden of Clarity

“I get home from the drive-thru and the contents of the bag that I paid for is not what I ordered, damn!”

I am sure that we have all experienced a similar episode in which one is extremely frustrated by the failure of another person to distinguish between listening to and merely hearing something important that was said. While it is true that sometimes things are lost in a confusing haze of busy activity or sensory overload, this is not the kind of situation to which I am referring. It is also all too common in dealings with teenagers at fast food drive-thru windows, but again this isn’t really the scenario I am addressing.  This can sometimes be equipment failure. I am asking if you have been an unwitting participant in a circumstance where a person that you were addressing, a person that was fully aware that you were at this particular location, at this current time, fully with the intent to be addressing them, and for which they have the responsibility and are in a position to be addressed by you at that instant, and while looking you square in the face, this person acted or responded in such a way, that made it completely clear that they heard you clearly, but that they weren’t really listening to anything exactly that you just said, despite appearing otherwise to you? Maybe it has happened in a restaurant, or when visiting a merchant or a business establishment, or perhaps dealing with a clerk at some kind of public utility or a government agency of some sort? It leaves one with a faint feeling of insult, confusion, or some other feeling of diminished worth or attention, possibly even resulting in anger or worse. This appears to be an increasingly more common occurrence and coupled with the general shortening of attention spans are actually accelerating the dumbing down of our culture.

There are also other types of instances or occurrences where one is hearing something potentially important and choosing to act as though the statements are of little or no significance. Pre-packaged video imagery, political gimmicks, diminished reading skills, mundane subject matter and lackluster speaker styles can melt away the attention span like an ice cube on a hot summer sidewalk. It has been A Curious Notion throughout  most of this summer season that the tidal wave of presidential campaign advertising and the political parties pre convention “to and fro” easily provides more than enough “turn off” to effectively render any important thing they may happen to say into so much background noise.

The thing that links both types of circumstances is a lack of concern and attention. The clerk or waiter is being paid to pay attention and service the customer in a professional manner, or execute a business function efficiently, or operate in the government office that they occupy honestly and with integrity. In the second set of instances that I have mentioned there exist a need for us as informed citizens participating in our democracy to remain concerned, aware, and questioning of the actions and statements of both our leaders and any potential leaders despite their rhetoric or antics, for it is we the people that still will have to make the fateful choice and, we that will be at the affect of that choice.

Academicians state that the true effects of a particular presidency can take up to twenty-five years after that official is out of office to be fully realized. In understanding this and remembering the past, it is needless to say the “voodoo” of the economics was that there was no trickle down to be had. So the current Republican air of deification of the nation’s fortieth president leaves me less than impressed.

The apparent choice that we as an intelligent electorate must make is between the current incumbent, whom a significant number of our countrymen openly dislike and a corporate business executive and former governor that has proven that he will purposefully mislead us. What we need in order to make an advised choice between them is to see just which one will satisfy the Burden of Clarity.

One might be inclined to ask just what is the burden of clarity?  Well, not being a man of letters myself, I will explain. It is a philosophical understanding that I have come to in my amateur studies of the emotional dynamics of human want. This is something that I plan to discuss at length in further issues.

I believe that The Burden of Clarity is a threefold axiomatic. The first is simply stated. The burden of clarity is on the speaker, as only the speaker is in full possession of their thoughts, or more specifically the point(s) of the thoughts in their mind. This is critical because the construction of one’s thoughts are usually formatted in their own mind before they are transmitted in some fashion or perhaps directly spoken. The second axiom is, The Burden of Understanding. This represents itself as two concepts; the first is our basic need as a human being to understand what is being said to us. The second is to receive the transmission of a thought from one person to another. The third aspect is much more nuanced.  It is the uniting factor between the first two axioms, which as I see it is human want. The fine points are these: principally the speaker has to want to get the point across to another or others, i.e. (the bridge is out). The speaker has the obligation to continue to refine and or reapply the points or concepts in transmission to the listener or audience by whatever means are effective. Conversely the listener or audience has to want, to understand what is being stated. Likewise if understanding is desired, the listener has the obligation to rigorously probe and question the speaker in order to gain a hold upon the concept or points of the concept attempting to be transmitted, i.e. (are you sure?; what bridge?). This interaction should create a natural symbiosis common to cogent conversation.

We as citizens of this great nation are compelled to sit here, caught in this preliminary juxtaposition, “resting on the plains of hesitation” waiting, wanting, hoping, that our chance at making our own choice isn’t already bought and paid for by some faceless super PAC. Wanting collectively to be told how things can work out and assured by someone with beliefs, guts, and common sense of the upcoming events of our collective futures, and what will be done by our representative government to help us, “the little guy”, not some well worn cliché` of weather we are better off now than we were four years ago, when clearly we are not dead as of yet. Heaven only knows just how bad things really were back then or just how close the brink of the abyss really was, because as we all know, no one is really going to “belly up” with the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to the American people, especially because in their hurried, focus-group injected, self conscious, and over advised minds, we only exist to catch their gaffs and devour them in their stupid mistakes.  This is for those of us that seem to care. Meanwhile the rest of us are too tired from working our two crappy jobs, or from looking for work that isn’t there, or from dealing with the kids, so we just want to be left alone so that we can continue to watch Mob Wives or ESPN in peace. We don’t even have any outrage left to publicly display. We’ve all just about given in, because it’s already too far to go back and who the hell is going to give a tinker’s damn about what’s in that sack when we get home anyway!

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