messages lie in words …. But it’s metamessages that have clout, because they stir emotions, and emotions are the currency of relationships.
So said Deborah Tannen on page 10 of I only say this because I love you (2001).
Tannen wrote “those closest to us have front-row seats to view our faults” yet they also have the proximity to our attributes, gifts but we perpetuate a culture that does not appreciate as much as it deprecates.
A decade ago, I remember how bringing an assets based approach was a welcome salve in the nonprofit/civic sector rather than the continued fixation with being motivated by what was missing or lacking in a place and wanting to be the problem solvers by confronting those things that were missing. But a few workshops in a year full of meetings results in a low concentration. And that short lived attempt to embrace what a place had was challenging to sustain when being critical is easy and familiar and a way that we have been told to treat one another in school, at work, in public spaces, and at home.
Now, I have made it a fixture of naming appreciations for the people i am with on a daily basis, at the end of most of the webinars that I design. And still it is difficult for people to begin with what they like.
Tannen elaborated no messages and metamessages by saying:
message: the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what anyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out.
metamessage: “the meaning that is not said, what we glean from every aspect of context: the way something is said, who is saying it, or that fact that it is said at all.
Or using another metaphor that “message is the word meaning while metamessage is the heart meaning.” Tanner elaborated by saying how metamessages are implicit and difficult to pinpoint as they are about relationships. Her early suggestion is to distinguish metamessage from message and one way of doing so is metacommunicating or talking about communication, which I suppose is using words to describe the implicit heart emotions.
Even in COVID times, the act of checking out a library book is delightful. We could not go inside the local branch. Instead I wrote a few authors and titles on the back of scrap paper that I handed to the librarian as one child walked through the grass and another rode a bicycle back and forth. We waited on the personalized attention as the librarian walked through the stacks pulling the books that we listed. And I saw one more sitting on top of the shelves nearest the door and asked if we could have that cat going cross country (skiing?), too.
Library books and lending are endless gifts of infinite curiosity. For a few years, I have searched for “publisher: Enchanted Lion” and a few series like Mercy Watson [“the porcine wonder”] by Kate DiCamillo, Dodswortb and Duck by Tim Egan, King and Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler and the Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. I’ve read multiple books (approximately 24 different titles) by these four authors more than 200 in the last three years.
Yesterday’s haul included a few Mercy Watson stories along with books on whales, other marine life and volcanos. It was most special because they were the first library books that we checked out in three months — the longest stretch of not borrowing books in five years.
Now we are back at it in a new library system with no limit on the number of books that we can borrow. But a system that does have late fees, so hopefully I will be more diligent about returning borrowed materials back on time. Better than I was 15 and 20 years ago, when I’d incur late fees but it was paying $.10 a day per book to the libraries and though I never saw the budgets of the library, I never had remorse about paying fees that paid for such a renowned institution.
Over the last 18 years, the Internet has been a boon for my reading. I still choose paperback and hardbacks, and I increasingly choose books from the public library rather than abebooks.com. I have made buying a book from an independent bookstore a simple act of selecting a sweet gift for a friend. (And, no, I don’t buy books from amazon.com as it cannibalizes the industries of writing.)
This morning, I had a fascinating 25 minutes as I sought the name of a young adult science fiction book that I read a couple of years ago. I could remember the name of one of the supporting characters, Dikeagou, because his name is a familiar and repeated name in our home. But, the book’s title escaped me. And so teh internet searches began (mind you through duckduckgo.com where they don’t track and store your searches like they do over at “do no evil” google).
It took multiple searches, and a few marvelous stops along the way that are sure to stoke my reading this winter are:
Best Sci Fi Books with Female Main Characters, a list of hundreds of books on goodreads. I didn’t find the book I was searching for in the first 100, and opted to not click on to the second page. But, I am pumped to know about this treasure trove and portal to critical lit.
MLK spoke to Coretta of a “sick nation” in November 1963. Fifty years later, this is a civilization steeped in war and violence. The friends of rape, pillage and genocide are not far removed.
Buckminster Fuller said:
You may say, “Why don’t you cut out all this political-economic stuff and get along with the stark facts of description of precisely what you think the postwar housing is going to look like?” And I say to you it isn’t going to look like anything until the war is over and that I can’t envision it’s coming at all except in terms of the meaning of the war.
This is true for postwar housing as well as learning and education, transportation, energy, ecosystems, transportation and social safety net. These are all bound by being at war, and endless policies and priorities that perpetuate war. War begets violence. War begets destruction, dismay, isolation, genocide and rape.
I say, and I have given realistic testimony to prove, that is why we have had to have a war: because we couldn’t free ourselves for thinking without the detaching effects of war. Short of war, we just let well enough alone. We were swivel-moored to the rooted-down tonnage of our lugubrious past.