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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A side point in my life

A side point in my life.

My next post about Finland is almost completed.  I hope to get it on line tomorrow.
Having said that, I need to write about something relating to that subject, although a little indirectly.  

I have spent most of my professional life dealing with two interrelated subjects, Theatre, and Speech Communication.  In my work with communication a good bit of my time has been spent preparing students to be communicators, people who organize their thoughts into spoken symbols and who the try to transfer those thoughts with validity to others through those symbols.  That however, is only part of communications, which has been defined, I think with accuracy, as the exchange of ideas.  This means that the communicator must not only send messages couched in valid understandable symbols, but that he/she must receive and interpret symbols from others, trying to gather the meanings as they were intended.  Another major part of this is to try to get the communicator to avoid "triggers" that will promote unthinking action by others, and even more important to avoid letting others prey on the emotions and spurring action by use of emotional triggers. (Signals, we call them, as opposed to symbols, or words that have meaning.)

A major part of being a good communicator is involved with taking responsibility for what one says, and a necessary element in that, is to take responsibility not only for one's own life, but to take responsibility for the manner in which one interprets and incorporates into one's life the messages received.  Taking responsibility means that you  (this "one" thing is appropriately academic but gets strained) are the one who controls your response.  I used to use, as a part of my presentation an article written by, I no longer remember who or when, entitled You Make You Mad.

One of the most common means of shifting responsibility for one's language, behavior and emotions is to blame them on someone else.  The general thrust of my sermon is that if you become angry, happy, rebellious, or acquire any other emotional or behavioral state, No ONE is responsible for that state but YOU.  Others may give you reasons for behavior but ultimately no one can affect you that way without your permission.  

When we see the frothing, screaming, stomping behaviors of some people in the anti-Bush demonstrations (No, I am not getting back into politics) Three out of four people in those demonstrations will, almost invariably, blame their behavior on Bush.  "He is doing THIS, and THIS makes me so angry, etc. etc. etc."

No one can make you behave or feel any particular way without your permission (at least if you aren't at gun point) and once you give over that permission (which obviously many do) you are giving others direct control over you.  It is never involuntary, it is always with permission.

That has been my sermon to some thousands of students over the years, but I have found an exception to that rule.  Last night, I walked my dear wife to bed, sat beside her, prayed with her, and tucked her in.  I turned to walk out the door and was flooded with such emotion that I had to go back into the room.  I don't think she was even aware of my presence, but I was so filled with joy that I had to kneel down by the bed, touch my head to the side of it and weep.  Maybe I am giving "permission" but it feels involuntary.  Every time I look at her, or she speaks to me, it makes me so happy.  She is fragile, and walks very hesitantly, and somewhat bent over (my son chuckles when she is bent and says "Betty Ballerina!" to her to urge her to stand more erect) but she is more beautiful than she ever was in the past, and -- well I guess that's my message, she makes me more happy than I can imagine.  I am sometime stunned with the joy I get just looking at her, or hearing her speak.   I guess that's all I wanted to say.


At 8:59 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

I think the feelings are involuntary, but you gave yourself permission to feel them.

I found myself getting teary eyed reading your thoughts about love, respect and trust. Both you and Janet are glorious in my minds eye ... you from your own words and thoughts and she as seen through you. Thank you for letting me see.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

What a glorious tribute to your wife. You are one in a million sir, and I truly admire you!

At 7:43 AM, Blogger opit said...

When a person is that in touch with himself - as you describe - it is a rare gift more precious than any other. If the purpose of life is to be found in the living of it, not much more can be asked than the ability to savor it properly.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

A major part of being a good communicator is involved with taking responsibility for what one says...

Amen! Beautifully said, Richard.


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