Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hear, Hear, Hear, and Hear

"I hear you!" I say to my wife. "But you don't hear me!" is the reply.

"Did you hear me?" I ask my son as he continues to play and doesn't make a move towards going to bed.

I believe there are four definitions for hearing and it is the play between them that causes a lot of the communication errors in our lives. We hear but we don't hear. So here's my hear definitions and levels of hearing:

To hear at the surface level is to simple have someone's auditory waves go through our ears and into our brain. Often we don't even pay attention to what we hear at this level. We hear but it doesn't "sink in" or it "goes in one ear and out the other" or we simply tune it out as background noise. This is what husbands do during game time when their response is an unintelligible "un-huh."

At the next level of hearing we have what is called "listening." Now this is deeper than the first level of hearing because this involves the engagement of your mind. To get to this level of hearing you want to make eye contact. Husbands and wives, parents and kids need to get the attention of the other person, make eye contact and THEN say what they need to say. The mind is engaged and "thinking about" what it just heard.

The next level of hearing is the level of "understanding." At this level what the other person is saying is not only heard, not only thought about, but now it is understood. "Ah NOW I hear/understand you" we would say. There are many times where I will look into my wife's eyes and hear what she is saying but simply don't understand it. "I don't get it?" or "What does that mean?" is the response or we ask to repeat it again in different words.

The deepest level of hearing is the "heeding" level. Now this is a tricky one because when someone heeds you there is a sense of obedience attached. When I tell my son to go to bed I EXPECT that he heeds me. That not only does he hear my words, not only do the words sink in, and not only does he understand it, but I expect that he heeds me and DOES IT. This is the biblical "HEAR or israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!" or "I tell you the truth" says Jesus, "whoever HEARS my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life." (John 5:24)
You can see where the communication problems occur. A son hears but doesn't heed. A spouse understands but doesn't agree so does that mean they REALLY don't understand or they just won't heed? Anybody can talk but many simply don't understand.

That is why OVER communication is asked in most situations. I can say something 5 times as an announcement, it is in the Weekly Newsletter, in the weekly email and still there are those who will say, "I never heard about it? Why didn't you tell me?"

Communication is, yes, speaking clearly but that is only 10%. SAYING SOMETHING that sinks in, is understood and heeded is the rest. Communication is, yes, hearing someone but that is only 10%. Focused attention so that you can understand and heed, if necessary, is the rest.

Do you hear what I am saying?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rights and Responsibilities

A leader in the restaurant business, someone who lobbies the government for restaurants, was quoted as saying that it would violate the "rights' of free speech for restaurants to HAVE to post the health department's grade of their cleanliness in the window for all to see. In essence, it is their RIGHT to be dirty and not tell customers about it.

In this political season it is time for us to define rights vs. responsibilities. We seem to be abusing the word "right" quite frequently and we tend to ignore our responsibilities even more frequently.

Our Declaration of Independence tells us that we are given rights by our Creator and among these are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It doesn't say that these three are all the rights but it does say that they come from God. The government was not established to give us rights. The government was to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" according to our Constitution. The Bill of Rights then gives us our amendments to the Constitution by telling us there are "LEGAL rights" that we have in order to insure our "GOD GIVEN rights" like the freedom of speech and freedom to carry guns.
But here's the thing. We infringe on people's GOD GIVEN rights only when we don't take up our GOD GIVEN responsibilities and that has NOTHING to do with the government. We seem to have the whole thing backwards in our world today. We think we need to establish my RIGHTS through Government intervention so that others will act responsibly; THAT is backward. WE need to act responsibly so that others will have THEIR rights and then the Government can stay out of it.

Take the restaurant guy above. His belief is that it is the RIGHT of the restaurant owners to put up whatever THEY want on THEIR windows on THEIR restaurants and if a patron gets sick, well, then we'll deal with who's responsibility that is. So because of that attitude the Congress has to enact a law telling restaurant owners that they no longer have that right and the right of the patron to know their meal is safe is a higher "right" or priority.

What if. What if the owner put in BIG BOLD LETTERS that this restaurant is CERTIFIED by SOME BIG CLEANLINESS AGENCY as being the CLEANEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD. What if the restaurant owner would pay the patron twice what his sickness cost if he got sick from his food. What if the restaurant owners took RESPONSIBILITY instead of trying to avoid it. IF they would, there would be no law needed in Congress.

What if people took responsibility for their actions THEN the rights of all people would be protected and there would be VERY LITTLE NEED for Government action. What if instead of trying to deceive the most customers we attempted to educate the most customers because we had the best product or service. What if.

Take responsibility for your actions and your rights will be protected. Take only your RIGHTS without the responsibilities and you will lose both.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Dohicky, Thingamabob, and Whatchamacallit

These are three of the greatest words in the English language in that they say something without saying a thing. Therefore they are universal: "Hand me the dohicky, you know, the thingamabob next to the whatchamacallit." Words have meanings but these stand out in the fact that their meanings are lost in the nebulous.

Hand me the dohicky, however, doesn't get you the thingamabob very fast unless the other is a mind reader. Which could happen. When my wife wants me to give her the thingamabob I generally know what object she doesn't know the name of and can hand it to her based on our 30 years together. But that doesn't get you as far as saying "Hand me the 1/4 inch ratchet with the 9/16th socket."

Naming something USED TO require assessing the character and nature of the things named. In the biblical story Adam named the animals and I don't believe he just called them dohicky, thingamabob and watchamacallit. Genesis 2: 19 says "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to Adam to SEE what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." (Caps mine) God wanted to SEE what Adam would name them based on the character and nature of each animal.

Many cultures don't name their kids until they are 2 years old. They earn their name once the parents assess the character and nature of that child. To call your child Bob when he is born is the equivalent of calling him dohicky unless you have found the etymology which says: it is short for Robert and came from Germanic tribes to England and means "bright fame". Is that who your Robert, Rob, Bob, Bert is? We don't spend enough time on names and I find to many people naming their kids Thingamabob and Whatchamacallit. In Ancient Egyptian Culture the NAME was a part of the "essence" of an individual. We might have mind, soul, and body as the essence but Ancient Egyptians had five: Body, Shadow, Ka, Ba, and NAME. To abuse the NAME was to abuse the individual. When people were REALLY bad in Ancient Egypt they would scratch their NAME off any carving or hieroglyph and so erase the person.

Naming requires knowing the character and nature of the person. Using family names is significant and good. Naming based on what you HOPE that person will become is also good. Naming a name the just sounds cool is your right and privilege but is the equivalent of calling your child Dohicky.

My parents named me Steven, a form of Stephen and the Greek Stephanos which means: crown. Did my parents name me that so I would become royalty some day? Did they name me that because I was the 6th boy in the family and they were running out of names? OR maybe they named me that because I am going bald and everyone can now see my crown. Yea, that's it.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Creation of Religion

I was on the water by myself and far from shore. My sailboat had flipped as I leaned into the wind a little too much. Wet with waves hitting me in the face I attempted to grab the keel (now the top of the boat) to flip the sailboat upright again. Yet each time I attempted it the stronger than normal wind would push it back again. I pushed the boat in the opposite direction and pulled and it was as if the gods of wind were playing with me because the wind shifted and threw the mast and sail back into the water again. I am a good swimmer and had a life jacket on but after an hour of attempting to pull the boat upright all I could do was lay on the white underside of the boat and rest while the wind and waves attempted to beat me up. In exhaustion I was forced to believe that there was some kind of malevolent spirit at work in the universe plotting against me.

Imagine the ancients running into the same problems and wondering what was at work in the universe around them that seemed to be nothing but chaos. That chaos then came to have names in various ancient traditions: Set in Egypt, Yamm in Ugantic, Tiamat in Babylonian, Typhon in Greek and even in Jewish and Christian scripture as a Sea Serpent, Rahab and Leviathon.

Life was defined as a struggle to keep the Chaos at bay. The gods of chaos in battle with the gods that keep Chaos under control. So what can you do but "help out" the "good" gods fighting Chaos through sacrifices, worship, and rituals. Keep the good gods happy and you will keep the Chaos gods away.

Aristotle believed the particular gods came to be defined through our dreams. Our dreams had a connection with the divine and so showed us how to order the universe to prevent chaos. Euhemerus believed our gods came from ancient heroes who fought the fight against chaos. Cornutus believed that studying the names and places where the god myths came from would give insight into the gods themselves and why we worship them. They all believed in religion but reasoned that this system of beliefs and rituals came from different places.

Religion was created as system of beliefs and rituals that would keep the arbitrary and capricious nature of, well, NATURE at bay. Nature is a nasty place of death, destruction, kill or be eaten, survival of the strongest or deceptive, and scary place. Religions were created to make sense of the scary void. That is also why most religions will be polytheistic. The more gods you have the easier it is to blame one or more of them for the earthquake that just killed 1000 people. Or you can explain it as a battle between two gods resulting in an earthquake. When there is only one god involved, there is only one you can blame for the seemingly capricious killing of people. Polytheists will never wonder if god is good or not because there are simply good gods and bad gods to blame and credit for everything.

Christianity is monotheistic but believes in chaos, not as a god but as a state of NON-God. A place absent of THE-ONE-God's love and care. The REAL battle in Christianity is not the ONE-God versus some other deity but the ONE-God versus our corrupted nature. The ONE-God seeks to be placed on the throne of our lives and depose our selfish nature and therefore the commands and rituals are about denigrating self in favor of the ONE-God and others.

Commands like: love God first and then love your neighbor; if you are hit on one cheek turn the other for hitting as well; if you are asked for an overcoat give your shirt as well; don't give out of your excess but give sacrificially; whoever is the least will be the greatest; give to get; love first no matter if it is reciprocated, etc.

Christianity is a religion; as system of beliefs, but it is far different than the arbitrary battle of gods resulting in earthquakes and tsunamis. So when I was stranded on the sail boat I didn't wonder of the battle going on causing the chaos, I would ask "what is God trying to teach me here?" It isn't some cosmic battle of god vs. god but it probably is something like: "Don't go sailing in strong winds by yourself you dummy!"