A Short Essay on the Obscurity in Discourse from a Gap of Knowledge Between a Speaker and a Listener

While communicating with people who are less educated than a speaker, or with those whose education who are not in the same area, there can be a sense that much meaning is lost in translation from communicator to recipient. The things said seem to have negligible impact or effect.

When one is learned in a certain domain, they command substantial amounts of knowledge in the area. They have a deep understanding which surpasses those who have not studied in the said area in depth and meaning. People only understand things in three ways: recollection of prior memories, consolidation of prior memories/ideas, or mixing memory with new information to synthesize a new idea. Thus, people may only understand things they know, or through a mixing of the known and the new. This allows people who have studied in a certain area to reach an understanding and depth unknown to those who have not studied as they constantly mix their old ideas as a base for new and higher ideas. Like a pyramid whose base needs to be laid out before the higher levels may be placed, the two stones under the top stone support it.

This leaves a gap between the knower (speaker) and the recipient, as the speaker is learned, he may communicate in a heuristic way which consolidates his speech in a concise manner. He may use efficient speech instead of drawling on about all the details to get to the main idea. For instance, basic knowledge may be left out for a higher-level idea, assumptions are known by the speaker but not the listener. Words and phrases may be dripping with heavy meaning for the speaker, but the listener, who does not weight the same words with as heavy of meaning, understands only a limited portion of the heavy words. For the learned, they are engorged and pumping with meaning, while the layman sees only the surface of the word and lacks the awareness the knowledgeable and learned person possesses.

An example I’ll use is while speaking with someone about horse-jump racing. I mentioned that horse-jump racing was a weird sport. Horse-jumping is a jockey who learns to ride a horse in an efficient manner on a horse who has been bred for many generations to increase the traits of height and precision when jumping in a structured competition of time for prize money. These horses are bred for the traits which allow them to be good horse jumpers, and the jockey learns to be one with the jumping horse to increase jumping efficiency. While this is an amazing union of animal and man to show off the potential of a horse, there is no practical value to such an activity. People gather and watch this is if it is an epitome of human progress. As I explained this to the person, who is an amateur horse-jumping enthusiast, they didn’t say much as for a reply. They only mentioned they enjoyed the sport.

The focus of this short essay is not on the activity of horse jumping directly, but in the communication and understanding of ideas and concepts. These heavy few sentences seemed to not portray the immensity of my discourse to the listener. They didn’t seem to understand. Perhaps they thought I was missing a certain value of their enjoyment of the sport. The few sentences had the potential to bloom into a beautiful rose of discourse and debate, which died upon the seed being planted.

When the idea(s) were mentioned, I envisioned people spending time and money to selectively and specifically breed horses for a pure breed. I imagine the evolutionary line and genetics involved, such as the selection of horses which possess certain traits, training, and growing of horses, and giving away less capable horses to those for less enthusiastic purposes. Perhaps a less capable horse goes into an amateur horse rider or onto a farm, never again to see the raceway. I imagine the thousands of people who gather to watch a learned rider ride a highly bred horse jump over obstacles on a synthetic course. The glory the person receives on winning, the cash earnings. Why would people arrange and spend money and time to create this so others can enjoy such a sport? There is no value to humanity but the feeling of success or keeping people focused on creating instead of destroying. But here we are creating something which benefits very few. Perhaps it is a show of supremacy. Perhaps people do it as a full-time job for the income. A passionate rider might have a transcendental and primitive experience with a horse, inciting a love for the racing.

These are my ideas which come from the short discourse I mention on the topic. The listener may have thought I was being irrational or boastful, or that I was spouting nonsense; I believe they just didn’t understand the weight of my words. The recipient, not learned in the areas I chose to mention, probably doesn’t understand nor has these same ideas come to mind which I have on the topic. The two minds indistinct, the communication blunted and obscured by the difference in domain-specific education.

This is one simple example of many which I feel have the same problem. My discourse has but insignificant effect on people to enlighten them to the ideas which are portrayed behind the veil of education. It is like there is a fog covering the world which has been lifted to only myself. Education lifts the veil of illusion and privilege for those who can see behind it. Yet, even if I were to engage in discourse with a person of equal education to myself, it may come to be that there may even be different subjective interpretations of the effect of certain words. While opinions are held by one, it isn’t necessarily held by another, so that when one alludes to certain ideas, it is that the ideas beheld clearly by the speaker isn’t exactly replicated in the listener.

Further on the topic, it seems that a mind may be able to have exact replicate ideas in other minds in certain conditions. Since minds are in no way linked but through a filter of communication and perception, it makes this task difficult. A person to understand an idea clearly and distinctly as another mind must first have their mind open, with all prejudices and prior beliefs tucked away. An open and clear awareness. They must be intently aware of the speaker. An idea must be laid out with assumptions, basic premises, and led to a conclusion. It must be repeated in several ways since people learn in diverse ways, and are aware of different things.

In casual discourse, this is an inefficient and unnatural way to go about communicating ideas. One would be an annoyance to drive their point across when the recipient is but hardly interested. So, the attempt is made at consolidating the idea(s) into a small package which may or may not be unwrapped by the recipient with the hope that the gift is a good one. They may unwrap the package and simply not admire or be interested in the contents. Or perhaps they think the package itself is the gift.

Higher level ideas from a studied domain contain assumptions and heuristics in natural language, to which the less learned seem not to take as meaningful. They may not understand how access the meaning because of the obscurity the veil of education and subjectivity creates. It is inefficient for one to drawl on about every detail to allow an idea to take effect unless that is the point of the discourse encounter.


Image credit: http://images.newindianexpress.com/uploads/user/imagelibrary/2016/11/9/original/Misunderstanding.jpg


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