Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Can We Turn Off The Spigot?

By Rose Strong

Did you ever have one of those days when you feel like you’re speaking a foreign language to everyone around you? Nobody seems to be listening or a simple email is misconstrued? It happens; days go by when no matter what we say or how we say it we just can’t get through. Or people are blasted at from every direction these days, they just don’t take time out to listen to what their co-workers, kids or significant others are saying.

When I was a youngster in grade school, I discovered Helen Keller. Through books, I devoured anything I could get my hands on about the life of this woman who overcame incredible adversity. I was riveted to the movie The Miracle Worker and had my heart set on becoming a teacher for the deaf and blind.

I took to learning new forms of communication: using finger spelling and even sought out how to learn Braille. I could spell rather well using my hands, but never learned much more about American Sign Language.

I found Keller’s life deeply fascinating. She was able to surmount such dire circumstances as blindness and deafness that could have kept her locked in the dark. Her pathway out was her teacher who became her life-long companion, Anne Sullivan. Sullivan brought Keller out of her dark and silent place by commanding her attention to non-verbal indicators that helped her to understand the world she was living in. From this moment at the water pump, Helen Keller’s life changed forever, through simple signals Sullivan pressed into her hand to converse and inform her.

Throughout people’s time on earth, there have been so many ways we have invented to communicate with one another.

Ancient man used hieroglyphics and cave paintings, Native Americans and the Chinese utilized smoke signals and in the 19th century,  Morse code  and the telegraph was developed as means for humans to communicate with one another over the miles by sending telegrams, which, interestingly will be ending forever, next month.

No longer using primitive methods, there are still numerous forms of communication in our shared world; from the verbal to the non-verbal; writing; music and art to Twitter; Facebook and texts. This blog post link, although lengthy, gives details on our collective non-verbal communications known as body language.

Many of these methods require us to focus, sit still and pay attention, something we seemed to have lost in the age of electronic communication. It’s as if the information we pass along and that which is coming at us is pouring out a spigot. We can’t get enough, but we don’t always take time to turn the flow off and soak it in like a sponge.

A recent blog post came to my inbox from The Purpose Fairy that helped spurn my thoughts about communication in its vast forms throughout history.  Alla Berdnikova from the village of Odessa in the Ukraine wrote 7 Important Lessons Deaf People Can Teach You About Communication.  The link is an eye-opener and takes us back to Helen Keller. Once she learned about water, she wanted to learn about everything else, but she had to slow down and focus to take in the information.  Some days, I really need to turn off the spigot and soak it in.

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