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Muted Words

Do you ever have those moments where you completely drift away into your own mind? Where you arrive at your destination and have absolutely no recollection of the journey that took you there? I think it’s pretty scary when that happens. A route that has become so familiar that I don’t even have to look where I’m going, don’t care to notice the smiles of the people I pass or feel the cracks in the pavement below my feet. So absorbed in my individual thought process, I could trip or even get run over and I’d be none the wiser.

When did we stop noticing the little things around us? When did we become so self-absorbed that we think it’s completely acceptable to elbow someone in the face and not apologise? Or push someone out of the way so that we could get off the bus first? The little things that make our world a place worth living in are being trodden on and stamped all over by our hungry, selfish feet. Marriages and friendships are falling apart, becoming stagnant and rife with awkward tension because we don’t notice the little things any more. Couples go to bed without kissing, friends don’t call each other. Txting and emailing have become too convenient, too easy. We don’t need to pick up the phone, don’t need to think about how we will express our words. Words. We are constantly sending written words into the cyber world, words that can get lost in a bubble of misunderstanding when they appear on a tiny screen as opposed to coming from our lips. Words are so important, so precious. Every single word should count. They’re not just a way for us to express our feelings and let our individual voices be heard, they’re also a form of communication. Do you remember how to communicate, to really communicate? Not just a frantic flurry of words typed while sat at your desk with only a brief glance at the response where you don’t even have to reply if you don’t want to. Real communication is slipping away. The kind where you actually have to listen to the person you’re having a conversation with. Eye contact, nods of acknowledgement, respect for this human being who is vocalising these precious words that exist only in this moment, and they have chosen you to express them to. You can’t just choose not to reply. They are right there in front of you.

I miss it.

Words are so powerful and it’s a real pity that recent technology has put them on mute. I want to turn the volume back up. I want to turn to the person next to me on the bus, throw his phone out the window and make him look me in the eyes and tell me how his day is going. I want to have meetings at work with the big boss directly. I don’t want to send emails and go through three different employees in order to communicate with management. That’s when problems arise, when miscommunication occurs, and even more so when you live in a country that speaks an entirely different language.

Last night in my weekly acting class we talked about the importance of words and the power than even just one word can hold. “I WISH TO SEE IT.” This is one of my lines from a scene in the play “In the Next Room” by Sarah Ruhl, spoken by the character Mrs Givings. These five simple words appear to highlight what she wants. But, they’re not actually that simple. Yes, she does want to see the machine her husband has invented that provides his patients with electrical stimulus therapy, but there’s more to it than that. There is a thick sub-text looming below the surface. She couldn’t care less about what machine her husband actually uses. She just wants his attention, his love, to feel his warm arms embrace her the way they once did in a simpler time. She wants to find a way into his world so that they can have no secrets. Her husband gets it. He can sense her true feelings because she is standing right there in front of him, showing him what she wants through the tone of her words, through her heightened emotions.

Can you imagine what would happen if she sent these words through a txt message? Would he be able to grasp what it is she is really implying? Probably not. Of course I’m not denying the power of the written word in all its forms, nor of sign language and body language, but when your sole purpose is to communicate directly with another person, to express your feelings or desires- I firmly believe that real-life communication (both spoken or signed, or even written but with the person next to you so you can catch their real meaning) is the most powerful, the most evocative. We need to be more honest. We should turn to people directly and tell them what is on our mind, what we’re feeling, instead of hiding behind our phones and computer screens. I’m all in favour of quick emails and whatsapps now and again, but I’d take a real chat any day of the week. Technology makes communication too easy, but in return gives it less meaning. We use emoticons to express our love, our anger, our sadness, when instead we should just pick up the phone, or if you’re lucky enough to live close to your nearest and dearest- just put on your shoes and walk over to their house. Don’t shy away behind your screens. It’s a sad day when you watch couples on a date, both glued to their phones. The other day I actually witnessed a kid fall from her mother’s lap because the mother was too busy playing on her ipad. Yeah. Priorities, people!

It would just be so much better if we started giving words the respect they deserve. Think a bit about what it is you want to say before you blurt stuff out without giving it a second thought. Words are so precious and we should honour every single one. Our words are loaded with meaning and occasionally the correct meaning can get lost if we’re not careful, or if we rely too much on other means rather than direct communication.

Let’s choose our words carefully, but honestly. It can be pretty refreshing to hear exactly how someone feels.

And sometimes? Sometimes a hug or a smile says more than a million words ever can.

Just saying.

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Photo by my talented friend Feelim Photography

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