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April 9th, 2009

talk to me straight


Talk to Me Straight, originally uploaded by gurdonark.

"Now, l can never remember....do you like your usual with white bread or wheat bread?".

"Wheat bread".

I have a box beside my computer which says "My First Lab: Microscope Accessory Kit". In fact, the box contains slides, and not my first lab. My first lab featured a chemistry set which facilitated smokes, burns, and even the fizzy possibility of explosions.

I saw an article on the internet recently which discussed how modern chemistry sets now eschew the more explosive deliverables. In a flash, I return in my mind to 10th grade chemistry class, when the teacher dropped mercury into a vial to create an explosion. I grew up in a harsher, more wonderful time.

I remember striking a match once on my tile bedroom floor, for the purpose of lighting a bunsen burner. The flame inexplicably leaped from the match and traveled the floor. It ran directly into my 5 year old sister's pajama leg. I theorize, with hindsight, that flames constitute intelligent life--and sometimes vengeful life. But this day the heat did not burst into flames--I smothered the fire potential with some quick-witted flame smothering action.

Words and feelings work like that, a bit. One says this, and it turns out that it sounds like that. In e-mail and the internet, the problem exacerbates. But the issue transcends even the world of 140-character expressions.

Often it feels like the world fills with straight talk, when human understanding requires more ellipses. Yet one longs, a bit, to speak more linearly with other folks--if only to practice drawing straight lines.

Perhaps that's why simple communication rituals matter--the people at the store who know your name, or know that you like your shirts folded, not on hangers, or the people who know that each person speaks her or his own secret language, which you can never fathom, and yet the words for "sandwich" and "good morning" are the same for almost everyone.

"goedemorgen"
"merci"
"de nada"
"mahalo"
"would you like that toasted?"

If these small rituals lack deep meaning, then I say, talk straight, and leave the deep meanings for the silence.