communication (n.) late 14c., from Old French comunicacion (14c., Modern French communication), from Latin communicationem (nominative communicatio), noun of action from past participle stem of communicare “to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform; join, unite, participate in,” literally “to make common,” from communis (see common (adj.)).
Sound surrounds. It diligently delivers the raw data of our perception field. Simply, it communicates the basic properties of nature, location and nuance of physical existence. Sound is the raw testament to the dynamic range and pulse of life processes, cueing us to the trickling mutations in our personal, manmade and natural spheres. We are the chosen addressee for the sounds on the street, the shifting seasons, our internal dialogue – all in constant motion – they depict, emphasize, fight for a place in the ear of the beholder, inviting us to pick our moment’s residence among a myriad of possible worlds, some familiar, others taking our attention to lands undiscovered. Sounds can captivate us, scatter, leave us inspired, heartbroken, frozen or frazzled. Hidden within basic air pressure displacements in space are emotional and psychological meta content continuously shaping the contours of our identity and the way we relate to life.
Sound never stops. It just gets quieter and quieter until it is inaudible, and even then we say we “hear” nothing. It is a reliable reminder for remaining alert to our uninterrupted presence and participation in this world. Listening is a tricky business. As we “tune” our attention, opening it to a certain range of content and sheltering it from another, we continue to crystalize the world we live in. What we let in and what remains outside our walls defines the range of experiencing the pulse of life at a given time. We can be immersed in our own thoughts and barely hear what is happening around us, or actively look for amiable cues in another’s voice dismissing what else is being communicated, or be captivated by the rustle of leaves on the porch and for a moment abstract from listening to our thoughts about what happened yesterday.
Where are you listening from now?
Personal communication is a fitting example of selective awareness. As we try to impart, inform and join personal and abstract worlds, the words in any language are sturdy conceptual placeholders we hang on to for dear life, mostly to serve our sense-making mania. Often, we jump “home” to familiar conclusions, delivered safely via linguistic eloquence or rather the associated emotional and psychological meaning. Or, we diligently assess the accuracy with which words and inflection communicate the thoughts of the speaker, including our personal messaging. Other times, we try to detect the emotional content behind what is being communicated, trying to lift the veil and connect to a more hidden, deeper layer of what wants to rise up into the world, strives to join, impart and inform. Let me in on the most intriguing news, explain to me the workings of the universe, serenade me, alert me to pending issues, share your pain and joy, invite me to a grand ball, play me the 9th symphony of Beethoven and I will still actively listen and look for the subtle cues, the “whats” of the sound current. Who/what is generating the sound and what is the driving intention beneath the communication?
I want to know. I want you to know. I want to know what you know.