Posts tagged " speech "

Listening with Someone Else’s Ears

July 4th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 39 comments

Do you have words that serve as a form of shorthand when used among your family and friends? Yet, heard by those not in-the-know, those words are easily misinterpreted.

As fans of Arthur Ransome’s charming book, Swallows and Amazons, our family adopted a sentence that appears early in the story. On summer holiday in the early days of the 20th century, Mrs. Walker is unsure whether to let her four children head out on a boating/camping trip in the nearby lakes. She sends a letter asking her deployed husband’s advice. The Royal Navy officer responds, “BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON’T DROWN.”

Never for an instant did we or our children think that the father didn’t care if his children drowned. He was conveying his confidence that they were capable and responsible. However, when our thirteen-year-old boat-owning son invited a young friend to accompany him on an overnight sailing trip on Lake Washington, my husband’s use of that sentence almost sabotaged the trip. When the friend’s father came over to discuss our son’s skills and the seaworthiness of his boat, my husband blithely said, “Better drowned than duffers; if not duffers won’t drown.” Having no inkling that this was a meaningful quote rather than a callous dismissal, the father retorted rather strongly that he did actually care if his son drowned. (The boys did go and had a wonderful—and safe—time.)

I thought of this story after reading an opinion piece by a college teacher that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Crispin Sartwell raised an interesting idea, that the inability to hear an opposing point of view and the demonization of anyone whose opinions don’t mirror one’s own is a result of the self-esteem movement. It is an idea worth discussing, but that isn’t the part of his article on which I want to focus.

In what I assume is an attempt to show balance, Mr. Sartwell opens his piece by mentioning how the knitting site Ravelry has banned anything, including knitting patterns, that suggests support for President Trump. He then cites how preacher Paula White spoke of breaking “every demonic network” working against the president in a prayer preceding the kick-off of President Trump’s re-election campaign. In other words, both those on the left and on the right believe that if you think differently than I do, you need to be silenced.

I’m going to speak very plainly  now. It is possible that you think that  I am way off base and, if so, I expect you to tell  me. Maybe I only have part of the story and you can fill in more. But, I do want to share my thoughts.

I have probably spent more time with various leaders and members of Evangelical churches than most non-Evangelicals. I include in this group not only Jews, but Catholics, the unaffiliated, atheists, members of other Protestant denominations and of other religions. My husband and I appear at dozens of Evangelical churches every year.  From my vantage point, I heard Paula White very differently from how Crispin Sartwell heard her. Let me explain.

I sometimes hear a rabbi whose views should parallel mine as we share a belief in the written and oral Torah.  Like my husband and me, he also restricts his diet to that which is kosher and like us he also  observes the Sabbath  and he conducts himself similarly to how we do in other important ways. Yet I hear him speak in a way that mortifies me. I consider his words to be a desecration of God’s name. I think his words or actions are so mistaken that they misrepresent the God I know and drive people away from wanting a relationship with Him. That is embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be shocking. No group is composed only of those who always make other members of the group proud or who reliably represent the correct path. The words may not even accurately represent the speaker’s views. 

Yet, there are other times when I agree with a Jewish religious leader’s words but cringe at his lack of awareness of how those words will sound to a crowd that has no background with which to make sense of what is being said. If he (or she) said those words to students or peers who will put them in context the words would be fine, but speaking in a format where his words will be public for even people with no background to hear is a different case.

When I read Paula White’s words, I understood her use of the words praying for the crushing of a  “demonic network” and “enemy” to refer, not to individuals who don’t support President Trump, but to evil  spiritual forces at work. I have heard words like that used when my Evangelical friends are praying for a relative who has cancer. There it is obvious that  the reference is not to an individual, but to a force with which they are grappling. If Pastor White was speaking in her church, everyone would understand the context. But she wasn’t. She was speaking at a political event.

I don’t believe that those of us who are religious should change our views or pander to those who don’t share our faith. But we should accord them respect. Retaining integrity in what one says while being aware that the crowd is diverse and of different faiths and backgrounds is a challenge that I think that we can, and must, meet.

If you haven’t looked at the Flood through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom,
you are missing much of its impact for today and for your life. 

ON SALE THIS WEEK:
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May I Have a Word?

April 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

In January 2007, in a dazzling speech at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words, “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…” 

On June 4th, 1940, Winston Churchill gave a speech warning of a possible Nazi invasion.  This was its climax:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Just over 3,300 years ago, Moses concluded a 36-day long speech to Israel with these words:

I’m 120 years old today and can no longer go out and come in for the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’ The Lord your God will cross before you; he will destroy these nations from before you and you shall inherit them. Joshua, he will cross over before you as the Lord has spoken.

(Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

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Crime Doesn’t Say

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 36 comments

On news broadcasts and interviews I have noticed something scary.  Boys involved in violent crime are largely illiterate.  This chilling correlation has been confirmed to me by friends in criminal justice and law enforcement.  You’d think that just by the laws of probability, at least some assailants and murderers when caught would have more to say than just meaningless gesticulations and obscenities.  I have been looking for just one carjacker who, upon being apprehended, told the policeman, “It’s challenging to understand, officer, I know, but while taking my afternoon constitutional, I was seized by an irresistible desire to inflict physical harm on an innocent citizen and to transfer his motor vehicle to my possession.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom suggests that the desire to communicate is present from birth and that parents who neglect this most crucial of their responsibilities may be complicit in their children’s later lack of socialization skills.

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Where Did I Hear That?

April 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

“When we were young, we were taught again and again that we shouldn’t get pregnant. Now we can’t!”

That plaintive wail from a childless 43 year-old woman caught my attention. Holly Finn describes the mortification and expense of countless in-vitro-fertilization procedures she endured. A little cashmere baby sweater goes everywhere with her; she bought it years earlier for the baby she hoped she’d one day have. Now Holly weeps about having the sweater but not the child. Her most excruciating experiences are being in the company of other women chattering happily about their children, or with men, most of whom simply don’t get how she feels.

Holly’s sad situation echoes the Biblical account of Rachel. When Leah repeatedly gives birth, the childless Rachel cries out in agony to her husband:

…give me children otherwise I’m as good as dead.
(Genesis 30:1)

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Say Little and Lead Much

March 21st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Leaders enjoy many benefits.  People seen as leaders get promoted and opportunities come their way.  Parents whose children respect them as leaders have more functional families.   But how do you begin the process of getting others to see you as a leader?

We have all seen leadership in action.  Perhaps one participant at a meeting emerges as the clear leader of the group.  Or people listen more attentively to one person than to another.  Groups coalesce around the one individual who is regarded as more authoritative than anyone else.

I’m sure you’ve seen parents who enjoy such excellent rapport with their children that obedience is almost automatic.  It is clear that the children view the parents as leaders.  Authentic leadership skills that are effective in a work environment are also effective in a family or social environment.  We just need to know what these skills are.

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You’ll Pardon Me, I Hope

September 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

You’ll pardon me, but in just the last few days, I have heard the word ‘crap’ used in public as a synonym for feces by the host of a popular television show, by an official of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and by a CNN news anchor, to name just three.  I am not going to squander your time bemoaning the coarsening of the culture; we all know it is happening.  Many of us understand why.

And it is not only the word ‘crap’.  There is another four letter synonym for excrement which is just as popular though the self-anointed cultural elites have ridiculously decreed that ‘crap’ can be used on America’s airwaves but not the alternative word for the same human byproduct.  Expect that to change soon.

Why this particular form of human waste?  Why don’t people say, “He needs the ear-wax beaten out of him”? Or, how about, “The breaching whale scared the saliva out of the kayaker”?  Or why not, “I’ve never heard anyone speaking such nasal mucus”?  I have never heard any driver say, “Oh urine! I took a wrong turn!”  Of all human body waste, why does only excrement enjoy such common usage in ordinary conversation today?

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Glossophobia – originally posted July 9, 2009

March 6th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

According to the intensive .16 second long research I just did on the web, we humans are full of phobias. Ranking relatively high – though quite below fear of spiders – is glossophobia, fear of public speaking.

In general, this one passed me by. While I certainly get nervous before teaching a class or giving a public address, I love speaking before a group. And so it came about that when my husband was going to miss his weekly radio show (KSFO, Sundays 1-4) because they have not yet rigged commercial airplanes to accommodate traveling hosts, I agreed to fill in for him. After all, how hard could it be to chatter for three hours? My daughters and I have been known to keep conversations going for far longer than that, often with four or five of us chiming in at the same moment. (This has the side effect of terrifying young husbands who have grown up with only one sister.)

For anyone who is thinking of a career in radio, let me share some hard earned wisdom. When you are talking into a studio microphone, the microphone doesn’t smile, nod its head or respond in any other way. There is zero immediate feedback telling you whether you are being witty and wise or interminably dull and dim-witted. This is most unnerving.

Despite having diligently prepared my opening remarks and having timed them to get me to the first commercial break, I was acutely uncomfortable. For all I knew, I could just as well be reciting Longfellow ballads into the air and indeed might be reduced to doing so by the third hour.

Fortunately, just after the first break the lines began to ring with callers commenting on my thoughts. You can be quite sure that I was heaping blessings on their heads and getting a particular thrill from the homeschooling mom who is a Musings reader, at the same time that I was worrying if the calls would continue. All in all, the three hours were a combination of enjoyable stretches punctuated by moments of terror.

Since marrying my husband, I have done innumerable new and unusual things. Whether it was crossing the Pacific in a sailboat or sitting in Barbra Streisand’s house while she asked my opinion of a new song, or eating a kosher meal in Arkansas with Governor and Mrs. Huckabee, my life has taken some unanticipated paths. Who knew that even something that I thought I knew how to do, like talking, would get a different and out of the ordinary twist?

 

 

 

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