Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Don't Get You

Every so often I interact with someone I just don't understand. It's not that we disagree politically, although we very well might. It's not our religious beliefs that are different; sometimes the only commonality between me and such people is our religion. It's not even culture or language; once I understood Spanish better I actually felt more of a kinship with the people in Veracruz, Mexico than in many parts of the United States.

What I'm talking about are people whose thought processes and logical sense are so diametrically opposed to my own that I almost feel like I'm talking to some alien being. I can't even guess what motivates them or why they make the decisions they do. Sometimes they do things that I find immensely rude, but they seem completely unaware that their actions are offensive. Trying to engage them in conversation is fruitless since I can't come up with anything that interests both of us. I've even found myself talking about the weather if only because the fact that we're both experiencing it is the only thing we have in common. It's difficult to explain the sensation; I can only describe it as if there were a wall or a thick pane of glass between them and me that makes it hard to communicate. Is this an unusual observation or do other people feel this way?

This sense of strangeness reminds me of the concept of the "Hierarchy of Foreignness" introduced in Orson Scott Card's science fiction novel Ender's Game and its sequels. This hierarchy divides our relationship with other intelligent beings into several tiers: utlanning ("the stranger we recognize as being a human of our world, but of another city or country"), framling ("the stranger we recognize as human, but of another world"), raman ("the stranger we recognize as human, but of another species"), and varelse ("the true alien, which includes all of the animals, for with them no conversation is possible. They live, but we cannot guess what purpose or causes make them act. They might be intelligent, they might be self-aware, but we cannot know it").

Now that I think about it, that last paragraph probably puts me into most people's "alien" category.

1 comment:

  1. Its funny you say that, because until I got to your last line I was thinking the same thing!!! :p



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