Wishful thinking

Rather than a pill that makes you forget, I wish we had one that helps us understand.

The more I deal with language, the more I realize how clumsy and ineffective it is as a tool of communication. How often do we find ourselves wanting to say one thing but end up meaning another? It is sad that communication fallacies create problems in families, workplaces and countries every day, and we, who proud ourselves over animals for our ability to use language, are pathetically helpless against them.

Language can express facts at best, even though we sometimes struggle with that too. Beyond that, its usefulness diminishes. Words cannot communicate feelings, but only describe them, barely.  “I know how you feel” should be one of the top 10 lies of all time. How can one truly understand the feelings of another just by being told about them, without having experienced the same feelings him/herself?

Now what if there’s a pill, or any technology, that instantly transfers one person’s feelings to another? 

No more complaints of “You don’t understand how I feel!” “Do you have any idea how much you’ve hurt me? Take this pill!” Wishful thinking, I know, but it’s fun to imagine that. And I suppose marriage counselors will be out of business.

Unleashing my imagination, I begin to suspect the development of the ability to use language might actually have been a step backward in evolution. I wonder if our ancestors had less exhausting means of communicating. Animals do. Dogs can get a great deal of information about each other by sniffing butt. Ants operate a highly complex and hierarchial society without language. You may say animals can only communicate very simple messages, but not being animals we’re really not in a position to make that conclusion.

You may be tempted to call me a daydreamer but before you do that, try to remember the last time you felt painful and not understood because communication failed.

6 thoughts on “Wishful thinking

  1. You wish! There is no such pill. But even if there is, I am not sure if I really wanna take one.
    For my part, the question is: Do we really want to truly understand the feelings of others?
    Maybe, we want to be understood. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that we want to be in other people’s shoes. So I think the real problem is not that we don’t understand, but we DON’T WANT to understand. Very often, when people ask YOU “Do you have any idea how I feel?”, they may never ask THEMSELVES this very question. Sad, isn’t it?

  2. Jon: Good point! I suppose the pill will be useful to two individuals who genuinely want to understand each other, like a fighting couple who want to make up but find their efforts beset by failure to communicate in language. Truly, it’s sad that more often communication fails because either party refuse to communicate. As an example, most bosses only demand results from their subordinates and don’t give a damn about their feelings.

    Tammy: Caveat: If you take a truck-load of the pill, prepare to be overwhelmed by feelings that you can’t handle.

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