Words: Misread and misheard

Over the weekend as I was transferring the clothes from the washer I noticed this scribbled on a piece of paper:


I was struck by the profundity of the message and chuckled at the absurdity of finding something like this in the laundry room. Sometimes life is like that - you never know what you find. Everybody's anger needs fixing. I am glad that the person who wrote that note at least acknowledged it. It drew a much bigger laugh a few minutes later when the reality of the message struck me.

The New Yorker (May 23, 2011) informed me about the 'karma chain' that was set in motion by Lama Pema in New York a month ago. It was an interesting experiment: Lama Pema played a version of 'Chinese Whispers' (called 'Telephone' in the U.S.). The idea was that Lama Pema at the start of the chain of 300+ people would recite three sutras that would be passed from person to person with the author Salman Rushdie at the very end of the chain to receive the final message. The Lama wanted to test the proposition "information can extremely volatile when words pass from person to person". The sutras that he read out (using his iPhone!) to person #1 in line were:

1) Like a shimmering star, or a flickering lamp
2) A fleeting autumn cloud, or a shining drop of morning dew
3) A phantom, a dream, or a bubble, so is all the existence to be seen

Even by the 20th person the messages were largely mangled from the original. Finally at the end, Salman Rushdie read out the final messages

1) Follow the glass stone. Follow the glass stone
2) The droid from hell
3) If anything exists it changes

These were 100% wrong as the Lama said. He said that not a single word that Rushdie read was the same, but in the end 'the words were not my message'. Accidentally and miraculously the listeners had listened to the gist of the message and then had collectively "put words to it". I am not sure I agree 100% with the Lama (considering #2), but it was an interesting exercise.

The scribbled message in my laundry room that sounded profound actually wasn't. It was more mundane and functional than spiritual and insightful than I had imagined. Because of the loopy 'Y' and the hastily scribbled cursive capital 'D', I had misread the first word: it was 'D-R-Y-E-R', not 'A-N-G-E-R'. Clarity had been restored, or not? My original misreading had actually lead to a moment of clarity. Everybody's anger needs fixing. It was a happy misreading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this post in your blog, very much. Thanks for the insightful thoughts.