What is communication? What does it mean? Is communication talking? Acting? Exploring? Is communication a way to categorize, standardize and understand our world? Or is it a process of expression, one that can be measured, understood and predicted. Is communication so uniform that it provides commonality between all peoples, races and places? Perhaps communication is the emotional expression, a way in which we can share our perception of the world. Maybe it’s none of these, maybe it’s all of them. You can get a degree in communication, hell you can devote your entire life to it, and still barely scratch the surface.
Think of communication as every expression, dance, music, voice, writing, physical and verbal actions. Communication is the way in which we see and perceive our world. It’s a series of games, transactions and formulas, as described by Eric Berne and Alvyn Freed, but more than that, communication is a way to express the intangible. One of my favorite perceptions of communication comes from that loveable and always positive philosopher Nietzche. In his treatise on truth and lies he discusses language. He delves into the complexity of communication and its inability to truly express any universal truth.
The idea he presents is that language is altered by perception. A leaf he says, is not really a leaf. After all an orange leaf isn’t a ficus leaf, and this leaf definitely isn’t that leaf but, we call them both leaves.
We use language to describe our existence. I’m using it right now to express my thoughts. Communication is about sharing our perceptions, both tangible and intangible, of universal truths.
What becomes apparent is the spectacular complexity of language both physical and verbal, and the universality we find in communication. Visualize the concept with me. Imagine you’re traveling the world. You are exploring each country but beyond that, you are meeting each society, culture, and person on the planet. Whew! That’s a lot of traveling! Now, imagine that you show each person a copper bangle – and ask them to describe it. Each person will give you a slightly different description, affected by both their cultural ideology and experience in their spatial surroundings. If you take the communication at face value you’ll see similarities across cultures and geographic areas, but either macro or micro, each person’s perception and communication will be inherently different. Do that same trip again a year later and the descriptions will have changed again. Our perception of existence and how we communicate it is constantly evolving. So what is communication? We’re back at the beginning.
Communication is that bridge, between what is, and what we think is. It’s shaped and molded by our experiences and developed by societies to facilitate collaboration and to allow humanity to evolve and progress. It’s an organic, natural expression of reality. It’s individual to a fault. So we work, as a global community, to shape communication. Like a sculptor we subtract and add to a piece. We craft communication so that we can understand one another. But isn’t something lost? Language is a beautiful example.
If I read a philosopher’s work in his native language and then again translated, it’s different. It’s not just the words that are different but the meaning itself has changed. My perception of him has been altered because my frame of reference is now different.
Communication then, must be an art. It’s crafted and we are the crafters. We are responsible for expressing our own world in terms and systems that can be understood by anyone, anywhere … Or perhaps the goal is to be obtuse, to obscure our meaning, couch it in metaphors and hide it in a sea of abstracts. Either way we utilize the beauty of human individuality to create masterpieces of communication. Because we have no universal language we have art, culture, history, society. We are individual because there is no one truth, there is no single descriptor. A leaf isn’t just a leaf. It’s this leaf. Hahaha. So what is communication? Communication is an art, something beautiful, something to be treasured. It’s an expression of who we are as humanity. Communication is how we define ourselves.
That said, the next time you communicate, take time to think about your words, actions, movements, and expressions. Remember, you are an artist and communication is your tool. Words aren’t just words, they’re a work of art, an expression of who you are, where you’re from, and how you think. Communication is choice, choice is power, power is the ability to choose. Choice is your first unalienable right. After all, you are who you choose to be. How you speak and write – how you communicate- is just another choice in the ballad of who you are.