Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Recently in a conversation with my friend we got to talking about one of her favorite topics, the Bald Eagle. I suggested that we should shoot them.
My regular readers know that I am something of a gun fanatic. If I’m remembering correctly, I’m up to four rifles and ten handguns. I have become that gun nut that I used to make fun of. I truly enjoy shooting my guns, but honestly, anybody who knows that I’m a gun nut probably also knows that I could never look down a gun site at an animal (of any kind) and actually pull the trigger. I don’t have a problem with hunters. I understand what they do for the ecology, and I know where meat comes from and truly like it when friends who hunt do give me meat.
Although they are now protected, the conversation went, there was a time when bald eagles were indeed hunted for food. They are large animals, and in reality, meat is meat. Some cultures find it absolutely disgusting that in America we eat beef, for example, and other cultures eat cats, dogs and horses. It’s just a matter of where you are raised. The eagle is actually a very large bird, and I’m sure they have a lot of meat, similar to chickens.
My friend gasped when I suggested that I shoot them. But my recent readers also know by now that I just received my camera. It’s an excellent camera, which can be fully automatic or fully manual, and I’m looking forward to learning to work with it. As such, yes, I want to shoot some eagles with my camera. She loves photography, and she loves eagles, so to me, what a great way to learn about it.
And here we are, a little less than halfway through this post and I haven’t even touched on the point. When I was young, I told my grandmother that I got a forty-five for Christmas. Perhaps I should have mentioned first that this was circa 1970, pre-dating streaming music, CD’s, and even cassette tapes. I had received a 45 record of Yellow Submarine, and, as a joke, intentionally said this in a way that I assumed she would assume I meant a handgun. Frankly, she should have known my parents would never give me a handgun (I’m sure that they’re very angry with me from beyond the grave as it is).
The point is that communication has two sides to it. When you say something, it’s important to realize that it’s not just what you say, but it’s also how it is interpreted by the person (or persons) who hears it. I enjoy playing with this, and often say things in a way that is misleading, but it can be a dangerous game. One of my favorite chemistry jokes is that nitrates are always better than day rates. It’s a very silly joke on the phonetics of the word but was reported by students who thought I said that nitrates are better than date rapes. There is no way I could control what they heard, and I ended up reprimanded for something I never said. Something, in fact, that isn’t even clever or funny.
There is a communication trick that sometimes is used by people, where they ask the listener to repeat back not only what they heard, but what they understood. It’s a good thing to do with something that is particularly important. I feel like I should insert a humorous example here, but frankly, I can’t think of one. In chemistry, though there are several.
I remember an experiment from my freshman year in college that called for sodium sulfate. Somebody thought it was sodium sulfite, which sounds very similar but is chemically exceptionally different. The cause of it, frankly, was word of mouth. The instructions clearly read sulfate, but somebody said it was sulfite. Like an idiot, I believed them. Of course, I wasn’t alone.
Of course, it’s important to remember that this goes both ways. No matter how clearly you say something, there’s always a chance that somebody can hear (or understand) it incorrectly. It’s always good to avoid becoming angry because somebody misunderstands what is said and avoid being angry until you’re sure you have heard something correctly. Recently I had a misunderstanding with a good friend of mine. As I was becoming increasingly frustrated, eventually I told her that I had to walk away for a bit. The next day, I explained what happened, but her response made me think she was upset that I ended the conversation. I did so to avoid becoming more upset and risking our friendship, but I guess she felt that was rude. I’m sure we’ll get our friendship back on track eventually, but it’s sad that we’re now going through this friction. And it’s all because of struggles in communication.