My friend Clay Rivers (A man who’s teaching me a great deal about patience and compassion, read his stuff), wrote something wonderful:
When examining all forms of communication/art, it’s one thing to take a work at face value and another to interpret the work understanding the author’s intent behind creating it.
The later takes work, thought, consideration. Acceptance that the artist may be trying to accomplish something that you may not entirely be privy to or, having that understanding, necessarily agree with but should respect as a valid choice.
Such interpretation requires one to actually consider artists themselves, rather than merely the topic or their own thoughts/desires.
“Anglo-Saxon” is a very well known term in popular culture. “Anglo-Norman” is an almost totally unknown word in popular culture. Therefore, if I had introduced that term, I would need to explain what the heck “Anglo-Norman” meant. That explanation would derail from the central theme of the piece both by lengthening it and by deconstructing what I was trying to create as a very concise summary of a very complicated history.
A bit about me: I’m a writer. I see writing as a craft– one equal to the other arts. And so I tend to fall into an often absurd level of obsession over things like sentence structure, word order, and word choice (Have you read Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences? As an English language lover, you might find it interesting if not). I probably spent 3 weeks on that single paragraph– I wrote it out about twenty times trying to find the best way to deconstruct and recompile that series of events as succinctly as possible while remaining as true as necessary to the history.
This obsession is my choice, however. I understand that not everyone sees writing as so grueling. So the fact that someone would ignore essentially everything about the craft of writing itself to make an almost pointless nitpick that is completely orthogonal to the piece is not actually what annoys.
The thing that annoys me is that someone would read such a piece and be completely obtuse about the possible knowledge or understanding of the writer– as if the substance of the piece itself flowed over them like water over a stone. “Did you read it at all?”
He did not make an assumption that I was knowledgable, that I already knew everything he was writing. He didn’t write that comment as an addendum to the reader, nor as a question “Isn’t it interesting that ‘Anglo-Norman’ is not as well known in popular culture as ‘Anglo-Saxon?’ I wonder why.”
This was not dialog, this was didactics.
He assumes a lack of knowledge on my part without knowing anything about me except what exists in this piece (which, by all accounts, remained almost entirely unread). He assumed not only that he knew more than me, but that he could correct me, and that he had a need to correct me (Because, well, he did).
What appears to be entirely absent was the thought “He probably already knows this, I don’t have to nitpick that because maybe he had a good reason and I just haven’t figured it out.” The a priori, assumption is that I was wrong.
By all accounts, he did nothing to “interpret the work understanding the author’s intent behind creating it,” because he did not really have any concern about the author or his knowledge at all. He assumed, knowing nothing about me, that he knew more than me, and went forward entirely with that assumption.
Now, to be fair, I know nothing about this man either. He might have thought about all of this. But if he had thought of that, he should have had the consideration to state as such– given that I can’t possibly know it; or perhaps thought “I needn’t write all of this, because he probably knows it.”
But he did neither of those things. And thus I have nothing else to go on other than what he brought into my house. A house that everyone can easily see is filled with entirely too many comments already, many of them overtly racist or stupidly aggressive. And into this house he brings what he admits is “a nit-picking response to only one example given.” How can I divine that that the author’s intention is anything other than correction?
Could I handle that better, more like Clay Rivers? Undoubtedly. I’m trying to be more patient. I’m trying real hard. But I’ve got a literally insane number of people coming at me, and sometimes… Well, Sarah, I just get tired and I pop off. I need to be better, and I’m working on it.
While I work on that, though, people should probably know that if they come into my house speaking nonsense about me, I’m gonna smack them.
Or, to put it in the words of a rather eloquent woman:
“Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!”