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Is the blue I see, the blue you see?

is the blue I see the blue you see?

I've considered writing this piece for several years, but, until now, I've not known how or where to begin. This narrative concerns perspectives, plural. I have but one perspectives, do you.

Try as I might, I can't walk in your shoes or see through your eyes--short of several medical miracles. I can't feel what you feel. How can I tell if I hear what you hear?

You may think that to question time-tested cliches is blasphemous for a writer--like tearing pages out of the original Webster's dictionary. It often appears that seeking a clearer understanding of these stale phrase is as inconceivable as US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, a black man, standing on the floor of the US Senate and roaring his support for former US President Ronald Reagan's civil rights policies; or Senator Jesse Helms, a "former" segregationist, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urban League, a paragon of excellence in race relations. From your perspective, my questioning of these holy grails may be like supporting US District Judge W. Brevard Hand, one of the latest in a long list of conservative fanatics to advocate book bannings.

Perspectives.

It is written in stone on one of Moses' tablets, in the fine print on the bottom, that we, as writers, are supposed to use feelings and senses to paint word pictures. We are supposed to dive into our handy-dandy Thesaurus and pick out the perfect words to enable our audiences to see the pictures we see out of our windows to the world. Even if you're the best writer ever to tumble from the bowels of the earth, how do you know you see what I see? Is blue to me the same blue to you? Perspectives.

Several years ago, I accepted a communication position in a small city as alien to me as I imagine the moon would be to you. Horse-drawn buggies have the right-of-way on roads. The two-party system of government is unheard of and white is right and black is still colored. Until I moved to tiny town American from the big city, I'd given very little thought to perspectives--at least in the sense of which I now speak.

In a beginning class of composition, fledgling writers are taught about perspective and point-of-view. Conceptually, these ideas are easy to digest. In real life, if you found yourself on a barren island with a cannibal, could you convince that cannibal in 30 seconds, maybe less, in 25 words or less, that you wouldn't make a tasty entree?

In the big city, where I lived before "the move," there were always folks with whom I could share an ethnic heritage as well as practical experiences--perspectives. For writers, the opportunity to share ideas, thoughts, perceptions, is invaluable.

I could walk down to the corner barber shop and gather support or opposition for my belief that Wynton Marsalis, the "new kid" in the world of US classical music (jazz), is a better musician than Miles Davis, the standard by which jazz players are measured--while I got a haircut. I could get my shoes shined without passersby staring at me the way I imagine I'd stare at a talking rock. In public, I didn't hesitate to say that the Moral Majority--a recently disbanded ultra-conservative religious organization--was neither; or a woman has the right to make personal choices concerning abortion; or that sports announcers are, with the exception of a few, biased in their reporting of the "facts." Perspectives.

Now, most of my acquaintances have no idea who Winton and Miles are, swear by Jimmy "The Greek"--a recently unemployed television sports personality who spouted his personal, and unsupported, genetics theories about black athletes to the media--and can't understand why my corner barber shop is 65 miles away. After all, in their eyes, a haircut is a haircut.

We, as writers, use all of our senses to gather information and report our findings to our publics. We depend on our publics to provide us with our information. We listen, see, feel and smell in our continuing efforts to report. We also depend on familiar points of reference to enable our journalistic endeavors to make sense. In the '80s, US professional basketball star Michael Jordan's leaping ability epitomizes "hang time"--a way of defying gravity without benefit of any support. (In America, in the '40s, the term "hangtime" meant something entirely different.)

If you're a Young Upwardly Mobile Professional (Yuppie), Black Upwardly Mobile Professional (Buppie) or a Jewish-American Princess (JAP), can you really identify with the starving children in the Sudan? Probably not. If you're a Christian, can you sympathize with the lions or the Romans? Probably not. Why not? Perspective?

I don't claim to have any resolutions for the problems created by perspective. There is a chance, however, that by the nature of my present surroundings, my concerns about perspective are exaggerated--though, no less real. But, if you have your corner barber shop or hair stylist, a reasonably priced compact disc source, your favorite Thai restaurant, a full selection of American cable television channels, and you haven't considered the staggering problems that could be presented by your perspective, consider this:

Your audience probably consists of a multicultural mix of persons. In these difficult political, social, and economic times, you'll probably be volunteered to write, discuss, or defend material that concerns a controversial and convoluted topic. What will you do when it's crucial that your audience understands, from their different perspectives, exactly what you mean? What will you do when the subject involves volatile issues such as race or religion? Do you realize that you'll be playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber, instead of five.

Is the blue you see the blue I see?
COPYRIGHT 1989 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:communicating across various perspectives
Author:Rose, Edward J.
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Words:964
Previous Article:How to build cross-cultural bridges.
Next Article:Brad Whitworth, ABC - new IABC chairman.
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