Saturday, July 2, 2016
We spent a couple of hours in El Centro today. We met up with our friend, Aurobindo, at a Market Fair where we had lunch. There is a white church with a steeple at the end of Calle Larga in El Centro, and on the side facing the Tomebamba river several vendors gathered selling trinkets, beer, food, coffee, and other items. Heidi, Easton, and I met up with Aurobindo there, and we also ran into John who is in our Spanish class too. Small world for such a big city.
There is a Tattoo Fair being held this weekend that sounded interesting to me. I suggested we all go check it out. The fair was at the other end of Calle Larga in a place called Prohibido Centro Cultural. How it was advertised, and what I imagined, was quite a bit different from what was there. The Director of the Cultural Center stated this: “There will be tattoo artists, workshops, souvenirs, music, etc. The tattoo had significance in some of Ecuador’s ancient cultures.”
This is a perfect example of the filters we all have and use with language. Filters get created by our past experience and association with words. “Workshop” in my world means education, teaching, and demonstration. “Souvenirs”, in the context of a Tattoo Fair, makes me think cool tattoo art sold in various ways, maybe as wall art, jewelry, ceramic something or another. “Ecuador’s ancient cultures” makes me think I am going to see ancient designs and tattoo work of the indigenous peoples here.
Those are all the imaginations I had based on the description of the event. When I arrived the reality was much different. There was one tattoo artist working on someone but it was difficult to tell what he was doing from the distance. His art work wasn’t readily displayed so it was impossible to tell exactly what kind of tattoo art he did. There was a booth selling videos of some sort, and another selling books of tattoo art but I totally missed this one. My son pointed it out after the fact. That seemed to be it.
The problem was that it was dark in the areas where things were displayed, and overall the venue was very small and didn’t have much to offer. It probably was exactly as it was stated in the mind of the Director of the Cultural Center. That person’s filter and reference points are just totally different from mine. The decor of the place was “out there” and that part of it was an interesting change to what I normally experience as a professional, middle-aged, white male. I appreciated the shake up to my senses.
This was a good lesson and reminder for me about our use of language as human beings, and the cultural and historical contexts we live in that give meaning to our language. We may share words with one another but that doesn’t mean we share the same meaning of those words.
This is an important point. How many times have we had a misunderstanding with someone because what was said was not what was meant, or what was heard was not what was understood. In my case, the words I read were not what I understood. I read them through my filter.
To be clear with each other in our language, and the meaning we give it, is critical for good communication. This applies in our personal relationships, our professional and business interactions, and our social engagements. We are at risk when we make assumptions, or at least when we don’t consider our own filters. Clarity and specifics are important.
Does “later” mean in an hour, or another part of the day, or another part of the week? Are you assuming its meaning? Does “it won’t cost much” mean $10, a $100, or a $1000? Context can give us an idea of what it “should” mean, but it lacks clarity and specifics. What does “workshop” really mean? Misinterpretation of our language can be a huge set up for disappointment and misunderstanding in on our everyday lives…like going to a Tattoo Fair. 😉
Ultimately it comes down to this. I am responsible for myself, both in using specific language and in asking for specific language from others. Personally, I can get gun shy on asking for specific language, or asking for specific meaning, because I can tell myself I am being pushy or rude. At the end of the day though, I am the only one who has control over me receiving what I need. Clarity in language is important for a well flowing life experience.
So my little adventure was worth the $2 bucks. Not for anything to do with tattoo art but as a reminder to me. I want to use language that is specific, check for mutual understanding, and ask for clarity from others when I’m spoken to (or when I read something). In the long run, extra effort at the front end avoids a whole lot of crap from happening at the back-end.