Waves Without Sounds

When things come crashing on the shores of the mind.

Category: Interpersonal Communication

Strange Talk

StrangerThere is a reason why I don’t actually feel like a normal person. As early as they can, parents normally tell their kids not to talk to strangers. Mine didn’t. Well, not until I was twelve and there were recurring incidents of kidnapping in our city. I would not think of it as a lapse in their otherwise neat parenting, though, I guess they just wish to avoid contradiction. My parents, you see, are people who are easy to strike conversations with others. I was also extremely introverted as a child compared to how I am now, and my parents were always urging me to make friends and mingle with people. So when I finally heard the words “don’t talk to strangers” spoken to me by my parents for the first time, I immediately asked “isn’t talking to strangers something we can’t help?” and proceeded to reason with them.

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The greatest conversation I had was with a stranger.

Human nature is my main reason. We were all born with an inherently insatiable curiosity, hence the recklessness of children. Humans ask myriads of questions which are basically ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ questions in an attempt to satisfy curiosity and minimize uncertainties. Here, a theory of human communication comes into play–the Uncertainty Reduction theory. This theory assumes that a person experiences uncertainty in dealing with others. In turn, the uncertainty that the person experiences provides cognitive stress, thus the person feels the need to reduce this uncertainty through communication. I believe this roots from the fact that humans are social beings and communicating with other people is essential for us.

Trust

Trust

Perhaps a more proper approach to this exists aside from telling children not to talk to strangers. We can start by teaching kids how to identify and deal with suspicious people. I also acknowledge my parents’ method of teaching me social skills like greeting people and politesse as I was growing up. In line with this, the children must also have a sense of trust and security in their guardians and elders so they won’t be too afraid of socialization. Most of all, I think that the best thing my parents taught me is that confidence is key. They trusted me and had confidence in me at a young age, hence I also developed trust and confidence in myself. I learned to be introspective because of that, and introspection allowed me to know myself profoundly. Having a deep self-awareness is the main factor to effective self-expression and security. You must know yourself before you get to know others.

With that, we may say that good parenting and proper upbringing is the answer to this dilemma in order to protect the kids. The love they feel from their parents is crucial in the early stages of children’s lives. I emphasize on love that children feel and not the love that parents think they give. Let’s face it, we lose a great deal of our purity as children when we become adults. What we think we provide the children is not what they feel they are given. Genetics alone does not shape the behavior and character of children, affection has a great impact on a child’s character and, of course, the feeling of being treasured.

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Storybooks that Grow and Breathe

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I have forgotten how I learned to read. In my earliest memories from when I was three years old, I already remember reading the books scattered around in my childhood home. Books sweep me away from reality so much that when it’s time for me to return to my world, I feel isolation. I mingle with people, I interact with them, I feel them, I think I understand them, but I cannot help but feel that I am merely observing humanity without taking part in it, like a deep-penetration agent if you please. Stories fascinate me, people don’t. People are the fruits from which I extract the juice necessary for me to live in the form of stories. For me, people are storybooks that grow and breathe.

Every single one of us has a story to tell. It may not be our life story–it can be a story about our shoes, for example, or about our hobbies–but each of our stories is unique. I remember that part from Voltaire’s novella, Candide, wherein Candide and Cunegonde were asked to have all the people in the ship they were boarding tell their stories. To my greatest sorrow, Voltaire did not detail the stories Candide and Cunegonde heard from those people, but the story itself was already filled with those of the characters. I would have loved to know, though, how diverse those stories were and if there were stories that seemed similar. It would have been great if I knew how Candide and Cunegonde asked for those stories too. It was fun to note in that novella how easily the characters tell their stories to Candide and how Candide reacted to those stories.

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My mind is a library wherein each of the person I met has their own book. I collect their stories. Those stories are not necessarily about their experiences, those stories may include their ideas, their views, and the events I shared with them. When I meet a person, you see, I prepare a blank book for them and they write their own stories on the pages of those blank books through the things they tell me. I write my observations regarding the person on their books in the form of annotations, and if there is someone else who has something to tell about that person, they also get to write annotations on that person’s book. Of course, I keep those books so that I could flip through them from time to time. By employing that method in my interactions, I minimize prejudice, assumptions, judgment and hasty generalizations towards other people. However, I do not do that just for the sake of satisfying my thirst for collecting stories. Of course, I do something with those stories–I learn from them. As I write my own story in the library of my mind, I put annotations on my own pages that were lifted from the books of the people I have met. I also rifle through those books when I write fiction or poetry–I would sometimes combine and/or augment some of those books and write them anew as a separate book that comes in the form of my creative output. So when you meet me, you better have a story to tell.

If you write from the heart, you’ll never run out of ink. Each of us has our own stories to tell–our own books of blank pages that we must fill. We cannot afford erasures on those pages, let alone allow one of those pages be torn. When it is time to place the ultimate punctuation in the book of our lives, we must place the completed book on the shelf of the library of humanity without hesitation. The number of the pages of the books of our lives does not matter, the content does. Whether the last punctuation of your book is an exclamation point, a question mark or a period, what matters is how the story transitioned towards the end. When it is time to close our books and retire, we must do so knowing our stories have been great and complete, such that they can be excellent references for the younger ones as they write their own. Perhaps, we never know whether or not, or when we are coming back to write a new story of our own.

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‘Throes of Creation’ by Leonid Pasternak

Why We Should Vomit Doves: An Excercise of Freedom

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My greatest pet peeve is people who hold back and people who restrain themselves especially in expressing themselves. Sure, society has put up limits on how we can express ourselves, but there are many who succeed in expression without violating these limits. People who hold back too much wrap their own chains around themselves.

Perhaps this view of mine stems from my fascination towards history. Wherever or to whomever we were born, I am sure that our ancestors have fought for freedom at least once. It does not matter whether or not they were victorious, it’s all about the effort they have put in securing freedom for us, their descendants. I’m also quite sure that you reading this means those days of suppression our ascendants erased for us are finally gone. The success of those who fought for freedom thus drives me to believe that the people are more empowered now than they were before, that we now believe freedom is not a privilege but a right.

I had a teacher who told me "I want you to draw with words". Art by Michael Volpicelli

I had a teacher who told me “I want you to draw with words”. Art by Michael Volpicelli

However, I understand that people who opt not to fully express themselves may do so because they do not wish to harm their fellows. As what they say, one’s freedom ends when that of another begins. I wish to remind everyone, though, that there are many ways to express oneself without hurting others. Art is one of the greatest forms of expression out there. May that art be visual, literary, theatre, music, or just any creative channel for an individual’s expression, all forms of art are harmless expressions of oneself. With art also comes the power of implications and the appeal to the subconscious of the audience. There is such a thing as passive-aggression which comes in the form of indirect expression of contradiction or hostility. You may say passive-aggression may still cause harm, but at least the harm is minimal compared to direct aggression. Perhaps, there is also diplomacy and the practice of tact. Appropriate articulation exists for anything that needs to be expressed. There are appropriate terms, tones, gestures and manners to match concepts or messages that needs to be conveyed in order to express them clearly without being offensive. I believe that clarity in expression is not something one is born with–we are all born to express and communicate. Communication skills are taught everywhere, in the classroom, among family, among colleagues, etc. Most of all, communication is a skill acquired mostly through interactions and exposure to different kinds of people.

Holding back in expression is an immense hindrance to proper communication. Perhaps the most common cause–or even the main cause–of conflict is miscommunication. I challenge you to count all the problems you encountered within the year which were not borne of miscommunication and see if you run out of fingers to count with. By establishing that miscommunication is the root of many problems, it can be said that communication is the solution to just as many or even more of those problems caused by miscommunication. Peace treaties weren’t written and signed using blades and gunpowder, and those who signed did not do so by ignoring each other. Throughout the course of history, wars and battles were concluded with ink and paper. Diplomacy and proper communication put an end to the greatest conflicts that ever occurred.

Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Credits to the owner.

Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Credits to the owner.

I totally agree with Rousseau when he said that “Man is born free–but everywhere he is in irons”. However, we all have a choice of breaking those chains or adding to them, because–as what Rousseau mentioned–man is born free. No matter how much we say that society is restricting, there are points in our lives wherein we are allowed to glimpses of freedom, and it is up to us whether to take on those chances or not. I respect those who may not express themselves in certain matters as long as it is their wholehearted choice. However, I do not think it is right to hold back what one wants to express if they are already feeling the tremendous need to do so. We all have a right to freedom of expression which we must all respect ourselves and others for possessing it. Voltaire once said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”, and that exactly is my belief. Even if the words coming out of your mouth are no better than vomit, I would find solace in the fact that the freedom of expression our forebears so fervently fought for is being actualized. The way I see it, we were born with freedom to use as currency for investing in happiness throughout our lives. Like money, we must not keep from exercising freedom niggardly but we must also learn to utilize it wisely.

Kizuna

So I have been watching this anime, Sengoku Basara. It’s the anime adaptation of the Capcom game series of the same name, which is basically a reimagining of the historical figures during the Warring States or the Sengoku Period in Japan. There’s this guy, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who betrayed his superior, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in order to unify the Land of the Rising Sun through his own way. You see, the previous warlords who succeeded in ‘unifying’ the nation, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi respectively, did so by waging wars against all the ruling warlords of the different regions and defeating them all. Though Tokugawa Ieyasu has the same motives as Oda and Toyotomi, he had a different approach. He aims to do it through the power of bonds.

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Instead of sending declarations of war to the other warlords, Tokugawa sent a plea to support his cause. As expected, though, only very few of those warlords responded positively to this plea. Most of them ignored Tokugawa and continued to fight each other. At this point of the anime, I weighed Tokugawa’s cause. Why was he confident in the ‘power of bonds’? What’s so special with ‘bonds’ that can overcome the tides of war? How do people even form bonds?

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Takeda & Uesugi

First of all, let us examine how bonds are formed. In that particular anime, there are characters like Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin who formed a deep bond because of the battles they fought against each other. So theirs is a bond not of hatred nor friendship, but of rivalry which roots from the satisfaction of one finding a match against the skills of the other. These characters marched against each other many times, but they are easy to ally with each other when needed. In fact, Takeda and Uesugi are among the warlords who declared support towards Tokugawa’s cause. Such is not the case in reality though. As how a professor of mine defines it concisely, communication can only happen if and only if the communicators have something in common– like the place where they’re at, the time, interests etc. Forming bonds through shared interests is what is common in my life. In my organization, UPM-OMAKE, for example, we are all gathered by our interest for the Japanese culture, and thus formed bonds with our fellow members.

Establishing bonds take time and intimacy, but maintaining bonds is just as difficult. People constantly change and drift away from each other in any sense of the phrase. It is very hard to constantly communicate with people who have drifted away from you. It’s almost as if you are establishing bonds all over again because you have to seek for a common ground on which all of you can stand on despite the changes that occurred among you. I’m currently experiencing it with my friends from high school. No matter how much we wish to see each other again, finding a common time to schedule our get-together needed lots of work since those who went to college did so in different universities, some are overseas and some are already raising families of their own. Establishing a bond is not enough, it has to be constantly strengthened such that when it is put under great strain, the bond would not go loose. Hence, I realized that, in maintaining bonds, one must be open to the changes of the others, and that a common long-term goal should be established among all those who share the bond–may that goal be aspirations, or merely the enjoyment of the company of each.

holding-onto-a-ropeGoing back to Tokugawa Ieyasu and his noble cause, one of the points he should have focused on was the depth of the bonds that bound the warlords. Not all those warlords were like Takeda and Uesugi who had a healthy relationship. Some of those warlords were like Mouri and Chousokabe who would pull each other down. Bonds are made of the fragile threads of trust loomed and sewn together over time. We even have a level of trust in our adversaries, especially in expecting a good match from them. Tokugawa Ieyasu was right in trusting the power of bonds, however, he should have tried to see the bonds between each of the warlords of the Warring States before attempting to entwine them all together. Bonds are powerful things in the sense that we share them with all that has passed us or walked with us in the course of our lives. Bonds can help us or defeat us, what matters is that we should know how to hold those bonds–when to hold them tightly, when to hold them loose, when to tug at them, and of course, when to let them go.