People don’t talk as much as they used to. We don’t need to in this age of communication where the Gettysburg Address can be sent electronically, in a matter of minutes, to a phone or computer somewhere in China. Excellent verbal communication skill belongs to a select few, evidenced by the unbelievable volume of communication that is accomplished by text or other electronic conveyance. I thought it might be worth our while to candidly look at the significance of signs, symbols and gestures in use in our world today.
No treatise on the significance of signs can be considered without the game of baseball figuring prominently. (It is sad that MLB has chosen to relegate this noble game to just another political statement, alienating millions of fans with their woke nonsense, a monumental lapse in judgement.) The stealthy American Indian had nothing on a coach or manger’s ability to demand a myriad of responses from a player on the field, without speaking. Touch the left eye, steal; the right eye hold fast, hands clasped take a pitch, well, you get the idea. I am guessing that a coach or manager suddenly scratching an itchy portion of his anatomy has resulted in much confusion on the part of his player intently watching for the “sign”. Baseball players are walking examples of the power of symbolism. We all know that ball players keep in constant touch with themselves. Really, they touch themselves constantly, always concerned about the precise location of their low hanging fruit. This is the one public arena where rearranging the furniture is absolutely acceptable, presumably because the manufacturers of protective equipment have yet to develop that one simple device that keeps everything where it should be. It may be just the simple task of moving the coffee bar where the bean bag was or the monumental task of hefting the love seat to see if it has gained weight since you last checked. At any rate, ball players are aptly named, well…ball players. Leaving anatomy behind for a moment, there is also the lost art of spitting, which conjures up another story on a personal level.
I hate tobacco in all forms other than the smell of a humidor where all that pipe tobacco is stored. I was an average pitcher in High School (but did have a winning record). All the big boys chewed tobacco, an acquired skill that would leave me retching at the thought. Relying on what little political skill I had, I placed a handful of dried apricots in a blender, shredded them and put them in one end of a Red Man tobacco bag. I kept tobacco in the other half, in case a player asked for a chew. When I took the mound, I would make a production of stuffing an enormous chew in my cheek and go to work. The opposing team would note that I never spit, which would of course enamor me to them as one tough son of a gun. Don’t laugh, politicians do this on another level every day! If you swallowed enough of the apricots, it also insured you would be out of the game in the 5th inning as it soon went to work on your digestive system.
Now on to gestures. Of course, the world knows and relies on the universal symbol/gesture of disrespect, the middle finger, to signal one’s lack of regard to the intended recipient. I hate this gesture, but admit it does cover great spans of space without running the risk of having your finger snapped off and stuck up your nose. (Nose being used symbolically, of course). When I was patrolling our highways, I delivered several lectures on the inappropriateness of relying on that sign of disrespect for my efforts in promoting safety. The poor folks who chose that route to express their lack of appreciation for my uniformed presence learned to rely on alternate forms of communication when addressing an officer of the law. I would not last 30 minutes in today’s police world, as I have no more regard for this gesture today than I did 20 years ago, and it is in common use by ignorant people everywhere.
Folks, we have seen the displeasure of a “sharp look”, warmth of a “broad smile” or abruptness of a “raised hand” replaced by an email or text message that conveys no warmth or emotion. Even emojis can be misconstrued. It is a “sign” of the times. Parents, motorcyclists, teachers and athletes are all schooled in the use of signs and gestures to communicate. A simple test of your ability is to agree to use no verbal communication for the first hour after you wake up in the morning, and relying on signs, symbols and gestures to communicate with your partner. You’ll be surprised….and laughing. I guarantee it!
Have a great week.