Apples are good for you.
To understand the sentence above, you don’t need to visualize an apple in your mind’s eye or look up the definition of “good for you”. The words simply go straight into your mind and thus you understand.
It would be quite different if you’ve never seen an apple before. You would probably try to think of the things that are good for you and try to deduce the meaning of the word “Apple” from that. And you might think for example – exercise is good for me, so maybe “Apple” is a form of exercise? You would be wrong of course, but you wouldn’t know that.
So, while words are tremendously useful, they only can be used to reason about and reshape what you already know. You cannot explain what the sun is to someone who has been locked in a basement since birth, but you can point at a button on their shirt and say – it’s kind of like that. It wouldn’t really be an accurate explanation of what the sun actually is, but it would be the best you could do at the moment. The person then would understand sun as a circle not unlike a button. That’s of course given that the person has capacity for abstract thought. In reality, such person would probably think that the sun is a button.
And also there is one other case where the words might fail to communicate the intended meaning. That happens when people having same objective understanding of the meaning behind the word, associate it with wildly different life experiences – someone who has apple allergy will have a strong negative reaction to the word “Apple” compared to someone who likes them.
To give you an example, imagine a scenario where two people are having a discussion. Sally is from the planet where apples are the main source of nutrition. If it wasn’t for apples, she would be long dead. John, on the other hand, is from the planet where apples have been used as a symbol by a cruel dictator who has killed millions of people.
So they’re having a nice discussion and at some point Sally confesses her unabashed love for apples. This instantly makes John suspicious of Sally’s ability to judge the world. Surely, she can’t be serious – John thinks to himself. How can someone hold such a ridiculous view? Does she have an agenda? If John was willing to look past the surface, then the misunderstanding would be quickly resolved, but that is rarely the case, especially when it comes to issues that are personally important.
What happened in this example is that John not only reacted emotionally and didn’t even try to understand Sally’s point of view, but he also became defensive and critical. When you are in this mode of thinking, you’re no longer taking in meaning behind the words. Now, you’re criticizing how the words are put together and the person who is sharing those words. This is a breakdown in communication.
And this I believe is a big part of the problem where two opposing sides are unable to communicate with each other. People are rarely willing to dig deep to really understand the opposing point of view. If what the opponent is saying, sounds ridiculous at the very base level, then surely trying to get into their twisted mind in an effort to understand them can only be counterproductive. After all, they’re insane and have an evil agenda. It’s obvious from the words they’re saying!
So my advice for anyone reading is to always be mindful of the other person’s experiences. Try to understand that no one picks their world views willy nilly. It’s a long and slow process that occurs naturally throughout a person’s life. Everyone has good reasons to believe what they believe. If you’re having a tough argument with someone you can’t understand at all, try to look for those reasons instead of turning to animosity.
And to conclude – apples are not actually good for you. I lied. They’re full of sugar and have low vitamin content. They also erode your teeth. Be mindful of what you accept as truth. Just because something is oft repeated and seems to make sense when taken at face value, doesn’t mean that it accurately reflects reality.