Life Lessons from Lewis Carroll   6 comments

This may well be the brain dumpiest brain dump that I’ve ever done. Honestly, it’s really more of a stream of conscious, need to get it out of my head, thing than anything I’ve likely ever written before. As such, if you don’t really care about what the bats in my belfry are saying to one another most recently, feel free to pass this post along and come back another day when you might find something more cohesive and perhaps more WoW related.

 Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Alternatively, you have been warned!

You know, I’ve often thought of looking for a doormat or small plaque with that saying etched on it for my front door, as it’s always been one of my favorites. Not that I think my house is akin to Dante’s seven rings of hell, it’s just something that I think would make me laugh each time I came home. Of course, I do believe that I agree with the Cheshire cat when he told Alice that being around mad people couldn’t be helped because “we’re all mad here”. Actually, now that I think about it, Lewis Carroll imparts quite a few bits of knowledge that are relevant to my thoughts today.

Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards.

Text is often a very difficult medium to communicate with and many things are often not made clear through the cold word on the four corners of a page. This is even more true when you are dealing with people whom you may not have the warmest relationships with, or just don’t know very well. It amazes me how a simple change in a closing statement from “Thanks!” to “Regards” can change the entire tenor of what was being said in someone’s mind, even if that was not the sender’s intent.

In addition, regardless of your intent, sometimes the way you phrase something can say volumes. If you mean well, but don’t think through what you are trying to say or are simply careless with your phrasing, the words you chose can take on a whole new life to a reader who has no choice but to take them at the face value they are offered on the page. Add to that the fact that your past history with a person can very easily color what you see in the words of another person, it seems to me that it becomes more important to take the time to think about how you say something. Because it doesn’t matter what you say, if you don’t think about how you say it.

For example, if you aren’t sure what is happening regarding topic A, rather than make an assumption that nothing is happening and then make a statement on what you think should be done based on the assumption of nothing being done - ask a question about if there is anything happening with regards to topic A. This does a number of things for the reader: it lets them know that you want to engage in a conversation, it gives them the opportunity to give you feedback on Topic A and it opens up the reader for a conversation rather than putting them on the defensive because they feel like before a conversation can be initiated incorrect assumptions have to be corrected. All of these things are important for starting a conversation off on the right foot.

Another thing to remember is that it’s important to conversation to try to refrain from negative statements. Let’s say that we have topic B, and we want to engage someone in discussion of this topic. Probably the best thing that you can do is leap your conversation from positives. After all, if the first thing you do is tell people that everything they are doing is wrong, you’ve already put strain on the possibility of conversation and potentially closed those doors altogether. Keep in mind that if you want something to be heard, you need to say something worth hearing!

On this same front, I think it’s important that if you want to start a conversation you show a base level of respect for those you are conversing with. If, through your words, intentional or not, you seem to completely disregard a person or what a person does, you cannot expect to have that person remain receptive to having an open conversation. Communication is a two way street, if you want to be heard you must also be open to listening. Even if you disagree with them, if you cannot be open to hearing their thoughts and accepting the possibility that multiple thoughts on something exist, you cannot have a conversation.

She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).

Brade always tells me that I shouldn’t argue with idiots on the internet, because I will stoop to their level and they will beat me with experience. I try really hard to follow this rule. Which, in turn, means that I rant. A lot. Everyone has their coping mechanisms, and mine happens to be stomping around and ranting until I’ve calmed down enough about something to see and think more clearly. Unfortunately for Brade, this means that he hears my thoughts (generally in a very loud fashion) on anything from what someone said on the internet that pissed me off to hot button issues that I happen to have an opinion on (generally this happens to be the state of education in the US).

Eventually I’ve stormed around the house enough to work most of the fire out, but from time to time there is something I just have a very hard time letting go – regardless of how many times I tell myself it’s not worth it. It’s not worth it to argue with that person that is so ingrained in their own thoughts they don’t care what you have to say. It’s not worth it to argue with the guy who says things simply to invoke reactions from people. It’s not worth it to try and have a conversation with that person who isn’t interested in conversation. I’ve also learned that the last word isn’t nearly as important as those who have to have it seem to think it is, and it’s often better to just move along to something more worth your time. Although that last lesson is one that is very easy to forget.

In short, sometimes you just have to convince yourself it’s ok to mentally tell those people to fuck off and let it go. It’s really not as easy as it sounds, and I am particularly bad at it – generally because I tend to care about a good number of things, including how I interact with others, and I try really hard to have an open mind and be engaging in conversation. But sometimes it’s just not worth your energy to deal with certain people. It’s a hard lesson, and one that I’ve not really learned just yet. But I’m trying. And as I get older I find that I start to have less tolerance for wasting my time and energy on things that ultimately just aren’t worth it (like conversations and arguments that are inevitably going to do nothing but run circles), and more tolerance for being okay mentally giving some folks the finger and walking away.

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.

I think I’ve rambled quite enough here, so I’ll let you fill in what you will with this last quote. And remember, I’m not all there ;)


“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Posted April 24, 2012 by Beruthiel in Brain Dump

6 responses to “Life Lessons from Lewis Carroll

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  1. I loved it! You ought to release those streams of consciousness more often. And rant too. I’m keeping this advice on the written word; it’s easy to forget it is not your actual tone what is conveyed by the words, but the tone that derives from the words themselves.

  2. I think a lot of the issues you bring up have to do with how poor communication is getting between people because of technology. Everyone who is growing up with the high amounts of technology we have now isn’t really accustomed to proper communication between people. This only seems to be made worse by the fact that so many idiots on the internet can be jerks anonymously.People need to treat their written communications, whether or not they are on the internet, as if they were speaking to someone in person. I believe that would be a good first step in bringing respect and civility back to writing.

  3. Beru, your discussion about the written word is fantastic and, in a happy coincidence, ties in to part of what I’m studying for one of my exams tomorrow. As such, I hope you’ll forgive me if I take this opportunity to express my views on meaning and such and pretend to myself that it still counts as “studying”. ;)

    The main issue with using words (either written or spoken) to convey ideas is that ideas are NOT language. Sure, you can try to use language to convey and describe these amazing ideas and adventures and epiphanies, but ideas are NOT language themselves. So we must encode our ideas into language in order to send the ideas to someone else.

    Once sent, we have to hope and pray that the ideas we’ve sent out will be DECODED by people in the *same way* we ENCODED them in the first place, in order for our idea to be properly understood.

    Unfortunately, there is a problem in this method of idea-sharing: no one, not a single person, has the exact same background, upbringing, understanding and experiences as anyone else.

    As such, no one will ever always decode your ideas in the exact way you always intend them to do so.

    Example: My brother once called me up while he was at a bar. He was quite drunk. “Sister,” he asked me, “who were those monsters on Fraggle Rock?”

    “What, the Gorgs?” I replied, perplexed.

    “THE GORGS. YES. THANK YOU. AWESOME.”

    Since my brother and I had shared similar (though obviously not identical) experiences while growing up, we both grew up watching Fraggle Rock, with the Fraggles, Doozers and Gorgs. But without that shared Fraggle Rock experience, I wouldn’t have known what the hell he was talking about.

    As another example, let’s look at WoW. Playing WoW introduces a whole new series of words and meanings behind those words (and acronyms). If I said to a friend of mine, who did not play WoW, “Man, my tank was such a noob the other day in DM North on the Tribute Run,” that person would get NOTHING of what I meant in that phrase, whereas you, a long-time WoW player, would completely understand and, more than that, you would probably be able to commiserate with me.

    My point in all of this is that using ANY language to convey ideas to others, be it spoken or written, English or French or Russian, there is always a good chance of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Always. Even if you’re generally on the same page, there will never be a moment when you are absolutely guaranteed that someone will ALWAYS get exactly what you’re saying. Even in WoW — I called the Balnazzar part of Stratholme “Strat Live” in Vanilla, but I met people who called it “Scarlet Strat” or “Strat Red”.

    The only real solution to this kind of potential misunderstanding or miscommunication is to do exactly as you said: think before you speak. Consider the possible misinterpretations of what you’re about to say/write and do what you can to minimize those misinterpretations by editing the text appropriately.

    And that concludes today’s lesson in communications studies. (Stuart Hall is the theorist I basically borrowed from. Fascinating stuff.)

  4. Latching onto the Alice in Wonderland mention (a favorite of mine), there actually IS a doormat with the Cheshire Cat and the phrase “Everyone’s mad here”. I might have insisted on getting one. :)

    (Total side note: Is wordpress still violently opposed to email/name comments? I think I have 3 or 4 wordpress logins depending on usage and can never remember which email address goes to which name.)

  5. I have always heard that text is high on information but low on meaning. We often forget there is so much more to face-to-face communication

  6. Excellent post! Especially your last point – I have a tendency to stew, especially on things that I know it would be pointless to rant about or have no place to direct the rant to. Sometimes just busying myself with other things helps until the initial rage wears off, and sometimes I have to write it all out as if I would actually post it somewhere, then throw the paper away.

    My mother found both my doormat and my door plaque at garage sales. The doormat says “GO AWAY” and the plaque says “Mental Ward.”

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