A friend of mine plays an instrument in a brass ensemble. I have no idea what she plays but she does it very well. Due to the efforts of my fifth grade teacher to have us learn the differences between musical instruments, I can recognize many: all percussions and strings. It helped that I played the viola for two really uncomfortable years during which I never one got the rhythm correct and usually played when everyone else observed a rest.
But while that teacher struggled to show us how they looked she didn’t do anything to teach us how they sounded. That would have been hard way back when she would have had to use 78 records and a record player. Hard to pause those.
So, yes, I can tell you when a cello is being played and differentiate that from other strings. I recognize various drums, a triangle, the glockenspiel and a piano. But the horns—woodwinds or brass, well, I don’t have the slightest idea. I can listen to and enjoy a piece but don’t expect me to know what section carried the melody. I don’t know.
My friend plays in a musical ensemble at church—I’m thankful that we have very talented musicians who share their gifts with us. After their lovely special music one Sunday, I thanked the musicians, then said to my friend, “What instrument do you play?” She laughed and laughed and said, “Oh, Jane, you’re so funny.”
I hadn’t realized my remark had been amusing. Embarrassed, I asked no more, just laughed and pretended I knew exactly what instrument she was playing and how it sounded.
The point is that people who know stuff believe other people know the same stuff. This leads to great miscommunication. When I attempted to take over the automatic pay at the bank after George died, I was talking with a customer service rep who was talking to an IT person, After three hours, the IT person realized I didn’t know anything about automatic bill paying and neither did the really nice customer service guy. What I needed to know was that the information on the auto-pay couldn’t be switched from George’s account to mine, that I had to start all over. He told the customer service guy who didn’t understand this. Then the customer service guy told me but we both thought this sounded stupid and duplicated payments. It wasn’t until I went to the bank and threatened to close all my accounts (one checking, one money market, and three CDs. They didn’t want to lose me), did we put all of our misunderstanding together so that I could finally stop $750 from disappearing from the account each month to pay bills I wanted to change.
And oh my, do I know that this is happening in our country. We talk past each other. We may agree on more than we think—we just don’t know that. Or we believe the other people hold our same beliefs. I just learned that a conservative didn’t realize that having a mortgage means he has borrowed money and live in debt. If we come to a debt or deficit discussion with such different understandings, how can we ever hope to find that common ground? How can people discuss if one groups believes abortion is murder and the other believes women have the right to chose what is best for her? Again, we talk past each other. We assume. We know what we know but may not know that YOU don’t know what I know.
Which leads us to the problems caused by not knowing the difference between a clarinet and a trombone.