Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting half the message

Have you ever decided, rather than enjoying the full spectrum of a particular experience, to only enjoy part of it?

For example, have you ever watched TV with the sound off?

Jandy Stone recently wrote a post that talked about two episodes of the NBC show Community. Her post moved me to offer this comment:

I still haven't watched Community yet. Well, technically I've watched Community, but I haven't listened to it.

I recently flew from Dallas to Paris, and from Paris back to Dallas, and in both instances American Airlines was showing, among other things, various items from NBC. However, I wasn't wearing the headphones, so I was only seeing video with no audio.

As the video played out before my eyes, I saw a show (which I had never seen before) which appeared to show Chevy Chase and some much younger people in a school situation. However, from my video-only perspective, it appeared to me that each of the people in the group were taking turns teaching subjects to the other students - some type of an educational collective, as it were. It wasn't until I read up on the show later that I realized that this was a more traditional college, and that ALL of the people were students.

Perhaps I'll watch the show with both audio AND video someday... :)

And according to Stone, I've missed out on a lot:

I can imagine watching it without audio would be a pretty different perspective. It's got some of the finest dialogue in TV right now, you should really check it out with audio. :)

Now I'll grant that my TV and movie consumption (or, more accurately, my lack thereof) is fairly non-standard, but I'm certain that a lot of us do similar things at one time or another. It's much more common, for example, to LISTEN to TV without watching it - perhaps we're cooking, or perhaps we're playing Starfleet Commander or something. Or maybe we're texting behind the wheel of a large automobile and not paying attention to the road in front of us. Or maybe we're "reading" Playboy Magazine, but we're skipping over the text and only looking at the pictures. (No, I didn't mean that YOU were reading Playboy; I was referring to someone else.)

Or let me give a better example. When [INSERT POLITICAL EVENT HERE] happened, you went and read all of the wise commentary that agreed with your interpretation of [INSERT POLITICAL EVENT HERE], but you skipped over the misinformed, inaccurate, stupid and dangerous commentary that opposed your interpretation of [INSERT POLITICAL EVENT HERE].

Regardless of the circumstances, there are times when we intentionally focus on some of the information available on a particular topic, while intentionally ignoring other information. This can have its advantages - for example, it allows us to focus on Chevy Chase's physical comedy without being distracted by his verbal wit, or it allows us to focus on Miss December's airtouched physical beauty without being distracted by her turn-offs ("guys who don't have a sense of humor," or "guys who don't appreciate long walks on the beach," or whatever passes for turn-offs these days).

On the other hand, this focus on some information while ignoring other information clearly can have its disadvantages, since we obviously get a skewed picture of a particular situation. Witness my misinterpretation of Community, for example. The consequences could be catastrophic - if we don't look at the road in front of us as we drive, we could die. Or they could be catastrophic in other ways - if we ONLY read news sources that state that Bush, Obama, and the Illuminati are in a secret Brussels-based alliance to enslave us, then we're going to waste a LOT of money buying gold, canned food items, and weapons at inflated prices.

The important thing is to RECOGNIZE when we're only looking at part of the picture, ACKNOWLEDGE that we're only looking at part of the picture, and PERCEIVE the ramifications, both positive and negative, of our laser focus/limited vision/skewed perspective on part of the topic we're exploring.
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