Saturday, October 3, 2009


I've tried to write this so many times.

How is it that I can say exact the opposite of what I mean, and yet not feel as if I have failed to communicate my purpose? How is it that I can say things that are so easily untrue, and yet, not feel as if I have lied in the slightest? How is it that those who hear my hurtful words are not hurt? How is it that they discern my meaning, behind the contradictory statements that I make, and respond in a way that communicates love and says hate?

Sarcasm. The product of a language who's words do not have inherent meaning. Or, perhaps, the product of a people who express themselves through contradiction. Or, maybe, because the language of love knows that words aren't everything.

I'll use robotics as an example, mostly because I've written about robotics and sarcasm/sincerity before, and also because they're an easy example for me because none of them read my blog. Quick review: At FRC, we frequently call each other names, tell each other that we hate each other, make disparaging remarks about each other, and are generally extremely negative with our words. But that's only half of it. In addition to that, we all get along fantastically, we create a strong community centered around the job at hand, and are all pretty much the best of friends. Paradoxically, all this while never telling each other that we like each other, that we accept each other, or that we are attached to each other. Our like, acceptance, and attachment goes unstated. At least, I thought it did. Until I started reading The Four Loves. In fact, our Affection, (this is what C.S. Lewis calls it) and Friendship for each other is in fact stated. It is stated with hateful words.

Somehow, good intentions are communicated using words designed to communicate precisely the opposite. Sarcasm. And I think the only reason that nobody is hurt is because we know that we have this Affection for each other. And that only works because Affection does not need to be stated plainly. It exists without statement. Now, I'm wondering, is our speech right? "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up." Well, what we say is most certainly unwholesome, and most certainly would tear down. But, nobody is torn down, instead, people are build up. It can't be our words, it is our Affection for each other, which needs no expression. And that expression makes the hurtful words mean something different. The meaning of the words builds up. We would never say "I hate you." unless it was false. We would never say any of what we say unless we didn't mean it. And so, while what is said is false, what we say, or what is heard, is in fact, an expression of true Affection and Friendship.

How confusing.

1 comment:

  1. --Also being on an FRC team, I almost know exactly what you mean. I've never put that into words before... but I totally agree.

    It seems to work marvelously in a robotics environment, but I have to carefully watch myself anywhere else, since spending three months with the same people cements the way I respond into my head. Something that sounds perfectly fine to a close friend on my robotics team can come across in a completely different manner to an equally close (is there a such thing?) or similarly close, non-robotics friend. I can say it in the same manner, with the same friendly attitude...

    How is it that affection is communicated through sarcasm, I wonder? I find it fascinating...

    There are so many inside jokes, shared laughs, funny moments at robotics... is that part of it? Maybe since relationships within robotics are built on such things, they are maintained by them.

    Maybe relationships not built on such things are not built up by them.