This I Believe

Kevin - Kansas City, Missouri
Entered on December 14, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: humanism

I believe in the power of mindful communication.

One might think that the capstone of my life’s experience thus far would begin with a tear-jerking story about my childhood realization that life wasn’t fair. You might expect a gut-wrenching tale of a ghastly near-death experience which helped me to appreciate the life I’ve lived, but that’s not the case either. I have no one chief experience which has brought me to this conclusion, but just like all my college English essays were forced to boil down to one basic idea, if I had to pick one singular thesis statement for my life, it has to be that one.

One might think that for my life to center around communication, I must be a linguist, or perhaps an English professor for some prestigious university, but I’m not. I am a computer software engineer, a scientist by trade, and we can actually be pretty good at communicating if we try: after all, we have you convinced that when your computer does something unexpected, it’s a “bug” in the system, when really, it was our miscommunication to the machine about what it was supposed to do in the first place. The computer is a perfectly capable machine, and endlessly willing to do our bidding, but the more effective we engineers are at communicating precisely and completely what it is to do, the better we are at our jobs. One serious miscommunication on my part, and millions of your tax dollars could be irreparably misplaced.

This concept is, of course, not limited to simply me and my profession. On a more personal level, at least a full ninety percent of the arguments I have with family and friends are due in no small part to a communications failure of some sort between us. Everyone must have played that silly gossip game in school by now, where a simple sentence becomes wildly and humorously distorted when passed through the chain of ears and mouths of the students. It doesn’t take a whole group of people to screw it up.

Disasters in communication can cause terrible accidents, sew the seeds of a war, or seal its fate; planes can collide and be sent hurtling back to earth, and lives can be lost. Without the simple yet elusive idea of effective, mindful communication, the most wonderful and innovative idea can be reduced to just another bit of amorphous information strewn about the ether of this world where we are constantly bombarded with it. Without it, I truly believe that this idea I am trying desperately to convey to you right this minute — this thesis that I have proclaimed to be the mission and meaning of my life — is rendered worthless.