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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Led Zep and "Communication Breakdown"

Remember this old Led Zeppelin song? "Communication Breakdown"
"Communication Breakdown, It's always the same, I'm having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane!"
Considering the song was written some 40 years ago as a lament about the inability of a young person to communicate love, "Communication Breakdown" undoubtedly expresses the angst of misunderstood human emotion in a face-to-face conversation or possibly in a telephone call. As a matter of fact, the theme echoes Paul Newman's (1967) famous Cool Hand Luke line regretting that "What we have here is a failure to communicate." A gap, a separation, a misunderstanding, a gulf, or simply a breakdown is a common pitfall in the exchange of information. Unfortunately, serious damage and permanent injury often occur when communication breaks down. Sometimes the outcome is irreversible. Today, with texting, cell phones, chat lines, and social networking websites at our disposal, communication between parties is convenient and easily used and abused. Much of the communication is trivial; some is brief and pointed phrasal dialogue; and some is rather vague and probing in a game-like, inquisitive manner. A certain addiction to instantaneous access undoubtedly drives much of the popularity of our present means of communication. Old friends reunite with new acquaintances to bond new communities through online chat. The power of the 21st Century computer has put our voices in touch with others across the globe who share our thoughts and conceptions about a myriad of subjects. Friendships, business dealings, investigations, romance -- all are capable of being conducted online. Therein lies a danger: the danger of losing rich face-to-face conversation where facial expressions, voice inflection and intonation, body language, and gesture accompany words and help project understanding. Writing speech is not talking speech for these apparent reasons. Yet, many rely on the Internet as the primary source to express their utmost priorities in all matters, great and small. If nothing else, new electronic communication processes have forced the wise writer to think twice in revision before delivering the typed message or the battery-limited cell call. Fearing misunderstanding, the well-meaning person contemplates giving proper context to a reader while considering the reader's background before publishing important statements. Even though clarification through reply is possible, such feedback is not guaranteed or sometimes not even open to discussion. In many cases, brevity and acronyms have taken the place of adequate development of ideas. Computers have become a new frontier for language arts enthusiasts but, unfortunately, also a new killing ground for predators of all types who use calculated language to lure unsuspecting victims. Is the novelty or even the unknown alluring for most human beings, especially those who are lonely or emotionally wounded? And, how much does the flood of compelling communication break down good common sense and will power as it engulfs its recipient with promises and seductive words? Anticipation and mystery also play predominant roles in computer communication. What a person reads is not necessarily what he or she gets. If Led Zeppelin were writing the lyrics for "Communication Breakdown" today, not only would they show a degree of suffering when words fumble meaning but also would they show the deliberate harm inflicted by those who use words to "break down" others? How times have changed when a communication overload is to be feared as much as a lack of communication. Essentially, the gap has become the dump. Words are mighty symbols of expression. Our primary mission is to become better conveyors and receptors of these sacred couriers of information.
"Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, And did you know Your stairway lies on the whispering wind."
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