Communication is a rush. Knowing that the other person is human with a brain brimming with thoughts, emotions, and desires expressed in synapses in a language that is completely natural to it but entirely foreign and incomprehensible to me – that is an incredible reality. In the same way my brain thinks in English, that brain thinks in another language. And when I can grasp the tiniest understanding of just a piece of that language, that mental existence, what a thrill! Suddenly the palpable but invisible shroud that separates my mind from the other is drawn aside ever so slightly, just enough for me to glimpse those thoughts, desires, emotions, the brilliance I know must be and is there in that mind, just out of my reach, just beyond my comprehension. We communicate! For an instant I can see the world from that other perspective, and we stand on the same plane of muddled, muddy confusion that clears in sudden bursts of glorious understanding before clouding once again. What a rush! What a thrill to hesitantly form words to which neither my brain nor body is accustomed. What breathtaking embarrassment to fumble mid-sentence, frantically searching for that elusive word to complete my simple thought. What bounding, glorious excitement to see the confusion turn to comprehension in the eyes of the other person! What wonder to share the experience of mutual understanding, the brief moment of clarity between two very different – and yet not so different – people, both with the same raw emotions, feelings, wishes, only differing in form when given a voice in the beautiful song that is language, the marvelous dance that is communication.
At the food pantry on Friday I signed to a deaf woman. It was just a sentence and a fragment – all I could manage with my single community college beginner class knowledge. It was thrilling! And then it was over. She was standing right there but so out of reach.