There is a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip which shows him asking his mother, “Can I have a snack?” His mother says, “Sure.” The next frame shows Calvin walking away with the whole cookie jar as he hears his mother call out, “You can have an apple or an orange.” In the next frame Calvin then says to the reader, “Even though we’re both talking English, we’re not speaking the same language.” All too often in life this happens to many of us. We hear what the other says from within the lexicon of our interior preoccupations, prejudices and train of thought, out of which we translate the actions and intentions of others!
For example… the following true incident. Jacob pulled up to the McDonald’s intercom, placed his order for an egg, cheese and bacon biscuit, and drove around the corner. At the cashier’s window ahead was a woman in a white car who appeared to be having an extended conversation with the cashier, which irked Jacob! Eventually, the driver handed the cashier a credit card, and the cashier soon handed it back to the woman along with a receipt. Jacob was puzzled when he then saw the driver hand the credit card back to the cashier! He wondered if the woman knew what the hell she was doing! The cashier handed the card back, along with a receipt, which the driver then handed back to the cashier. Jacob thought, “Crazy lady!”
The woman drove forward to go pick up her order, and Jacob pulled up to the cashier’s window and held out his three $1 bills. The cashier said, “The lady in the car ahead of you just paid for your order.” Jacob blurted out, “What!?!” The cashier held out the receipt to him, which he took, moving his car up behind the woman who was receiving her order. He honked and waved his hand out the window in thanks! The woman’s hand shot up out of the sun-roof window and waved, and then she drove off. Happy with gratitude while munching on the biscuit as he drove, Jacob basked in the specialness of having received his unasked-for gift! Gradually, however, the unbidden memory of his irritation with the woman came back and nibbled on his mood, and he then began to feel ashamed of his first assessment of the woman. He puzzled over why he had so automatically reached for the conclusion that there was something wrong with the woman, and yet Jacob could not find the words to explain it to himself! With his mood now souring, he also wondered why his biscuit didn’t taste quite right and he blurted out, “Stupid McDonald’s!”
The magic of a cartoon is found in how it can so succinctly encapsulate a truth about life! Often times we speak to one another without comprehending what the others’ words are really trying to get at, and we then jump to conclusions. If we keep experiencing chaos and unhappiness in our relationships, perhaps we and Life are not speaking the same language? Perhaps we need to learn a new one?