Doing violence to our experiences

In school, I took copious notes in class. I rarely went back to study my notes, however. The act of writing things down helped me remember. That’s probably one of the reasons I started this blog. I wanted to remember little milestones in Philip’s life. I thought if I could take a picture and write about it, those little moments wouldn’t get lost. Because we all know it’s usually the little moments that mean the most.

Much to my taciturn husband’s dismay and to the annoyance of a coworker or two, I also like to talk through things. I often work out problems by talking them out. The other person doesn’t even need to respond. The mere act of chatting, of saying it out loud has often helped me solve problems.

Sometimes, though, writing or talking about an experience can diminish it. That was the message of my post “You need to stop talking about this.” In that story, I relayed the lesson I learned from a friend about taking care not to talk too much or even at all about important experiences.

At the time, the advice from my friend and fellow music teacher should have been obvious to me. Some things can’t be put into words. That’s why music, dance and art exist. These tools express things in ways that words cannot. These art forms help us understand things in ways that words cannot.

The responses to the post were mixed. Some people suggested that it is all a matter of finding the right audience. Others thought it would be lonely to keep everything inside. I can concede to both of these points.

However, Anna of Muddy River Muse got what I was trying to say. Her response to the post perfectly captured what I wanted to convey, which is why I selected it as my November comment of the month:

I agree that there are some experiences that can’t be captured in words, and I sometimes think we do violence to those experiences when we try. I teach a course in Adult Learning and Development in which one of the topics is “transformational learning.” I am very careful about how and when I invite my students to volunteer to share their own experiences of transformation, because they can be so deeply personal.

Anna will now have a place on my “Couldn’t Have Said It Better” page. I hope you will stop by her blog and leave a thoughtful comment for her to enjoy.

3 thoughts on “Doing violence to our experiences

  1. Take the winning touchdown in the Alabama-Auburn football game this weekend. It could go both ways – is it better to just watch the touchdown, with the din of the home crowd? Or is the experienced enhanced by not only the TV broadcast, but the peek in to the home and visiting team radio broadcast?

    My answer is … both. It’s the same experience, but with or without words, it’s an experience.

    Not sure this is exactly the same. I suppose it’s an endorsement of the thought that it depends on the audience.


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