Sunday, June 25, 2006

Relationships 3: Can I please get a translator?

lanĀ·guage: n. A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating

I tend to think of everything in life as a language. There are the obvious ones like English and Spanish, symbols called letters combined to form words with defined meanings. According to the definition above, printed music would also be a language, used to communicate the exact way a song should be played. Less obvious is that music itself is a language, although less concretely defined: the notes, tempo, volume, texture of the instruments and style of singing are auditory symbols that combine to communicate a message. Art is another example: basic shapes and forms combine with color and texture to tell a story or communicate an emotion. Film is my favorite example, because it combines all of the above with the following language that is the most complex and hardest to learn: body language.

It is the language that every human being is born speaking, that is modified and added to throughout our lives, and the one that often communicates the most about us to those who can understand it. It is also the hardest to learn, because there are almost 7 billion dialects. It's the one that tells a husband that his wife's smile has just invisibly changed from "happy" to "you're going to get it when we get home, just wait." It's also the language that reveals whether "congratulations" is a self-serving platitude or a heartfelt affirmation.

I have always been pretty good at understanding what motivates people in general to do the things they do, and what is probably going through the average person's head in a given situation. But people in general are not people in specific, and my understanding of what exactly is going on in a particular person's head is limited by my knowledge of their particular language. Whether I am dependent on that knowledge by nature or whether I have become so dependent on it because of all the time I have spent thinking about it I don't really know, but when I enter a group of people I don't know, it's like taking a total immersion course in French, German, Mandarin, Russian, and Tagalog all at the same time. This has an understandable effect on the speed at which I develop relationships.

So what brought all this up? I went to lunch a few days ago with a friend I respect very much, and I was surprised to find myself having to struggle to answer his questions with honesty and completeness. That realization forced me to examine why, and while I already knew the answer, it only led to more questions.

I'll start you off with this question: how much does your knowledge of another affect how much access they get to "you?" You know the "you" I mean...the one that's inside feeling guilty about _____ or longing for someone to take you aside and tell you ______ or ask you _____. That "you," not the one that is on the outside talking about TV or laughing Diet Pepsi all over the table because of the joke the guy next to you just made. Who in your life gets access to that "you" and why? Or why not? In my life, the answer is literally nobody, and the why is long habit, or more honestly, fear.

If I don't know somebody well enough to know what they are thinking and what they are going to do with the parts of my self I give them, then it's a lot safer to take care of it myself. This is a natural perspective, but is it a Godly perspective? I haven't completely figured out the answer to that question because I am obviously still struggling with it, but my current answer is "not really." Something I realized a long time ago when I was younger and less stupid that I never really took to heart is that distrust is not just a lack of trust, it's the active belief that the person will fail you, and the rejection of any possibility that they won't. Is it OK to guard yourself from hurt? Yes. Is it OK to use discretion in discussing certain topics with certain people? Yes. But to never be able to let anyone past that wall? I don't think that's the way God intends us to live.

As I stated in my previous posts, not only did God create human beings with needs, he created people to meet them. He created the church, the body of Christ, to be his messengers in this world as well as a source of support, encouragement, fellowship, love and healing for believers. Trust is part of the connective tissue that holds the cells of that body together.

I guess I have something else to work on.

1 Corinthians 13:7
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Colossians 3:9-10
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

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Anonymous Michelle said...

very wise. It is so great to hear about all that God is teaching you in your life!!

Monday, June 26, 2006 2:51:00 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

Thank you Jon. Really.

We, the Body, long for and strive after that garden state..., "they were naked and felt no shame." May we reach a deeper love as we wait for the return of the King.

This post is most excellent, not only in its literary qualities, but in its depth of insight. You've blessed me. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 12:27:00 AM  
Anonymous grant said...

my friend. i am glad that i have found this blog and that you have shared these things. angela and i read your last 8 posts. we are not as techno-savvy and unfortunately will probably not get into the routine of reading this, i.e. we are still going to rely on verbal communication. we love you and praise God for you. we can't wait to get to know you more.

Monday, July 10, 2006 8:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so if you were a film, you'd be set in dim lighting, with sharp contrasting shadows and a light echo on everything above a whisper? (film noir) i'd be technicolor.... man, that has implications..

[not trying to be offensive with this]

Monday, July 10, 2006 6:32:00 PM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

No offense taken. I'm also not entirely sure what you mean or who you are. Technicolor me confused.

Monday, July 10, 2006 6:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Film noir tends to revolve around flawed and desperate characters in an unforgiving world.

Technicolor became known and celebrated for its hyper-realistic, saturated levels of color

source: wikipedia

your post delves into the art of language and communication, and brings film into the mix as a more precise form of such... the rest of your post brought this back around to be a personal revelation and an introspective analysis... the film analogy was just to see if i understood you. and to share part of whats behind my inner stonehenge.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

Actually I wouldn't say film is a more precise language. To me it's more of a combination of languages, which is what makes it so much fun to analyze.

I like your analogy and definitions. This world is definitely a "film noir" world. We are all flawed and desperate characters living in an unforgiving world, however little we may realize it. God in his grace has provided a way for us to get back to the "technicolor" life he intended.

If you have read my post "Missing Perception," you will also understand when I say that God calls Christians to be technicolor in the film noir world so that others will come to know him.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 5:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with the first two paragraphs of what you are saying... however, my use of technicolor was different than yours. technicolor is an inprecise copy of the real color- it's slightly off. we shouldnt strive to be technicolor, i was using both forms of film critically...

i read "missing perceptions" (to my surprise- i could of written it. i have an article about synesthesia on my bullitin board and the same taste of glazed donuts when i hear "shine"...) but i wasnt commenting on that post here...

"That "you," not the one that is on the outside talking about TV or laughing Diet Pepsi all over the table because of the joke the guy next to you just made. Who in your life gets access to that "you" and why? Or why not? In my life, the answer is literally nobody, and the why is long habit, or more honestly, fear." thats what i am commenting on..
more on the level of us as individuals.

in what kind of film are we hidding? which shadows hide and which reveal? how do we take the mask off and stand in the light? dan mentioned the longing we have as christians for the "garden state".... i think one of the keys to getting past shame is to start revealing oneself. the only hard part is doing it. in theory its great. i am trying to start to except that the demands and expectations God places on me are not the same as the demands and expectations the world or the church have set on me. God sees the real color of my film, he knows the desperation of the noir world. and he is the one with the authority to complete the online edit. (i only wish i could see the sneak preview...) thus i am free to just be me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 7:04:00 PM  

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