Friday, January 23, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that mandated the agency "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

I am reading a book right now by Richard Sellars on the history of the National Parks in the United States. It is actually pretty interesting, and right off the bat it looks in depth at the creation of the National Parks and what exactly was the goal in creating them. It is easy to think of the creation of National Park as conservation, but in reality they were primarily created with a strong push from railroad companies for the development of the west and economic tourism. That being said, what I find interested is the bill that President Wilson signed. I find it interesting because I wonder throughout history how its been interpreted. What exactly does "conserve the scenery" mean? What does it mean to "provide for the enjoyment" or "leave them unimpaired." The reason to me this is so fascinating is it is yet another example of something being said and then allowing for various interpretations. I had a work meeting the other day, and within a short while it became obvious that everyone around the table was on a different wave length. We might have all heard the same things - but we were interpreting them in vastly different ways. Therefore the intention of what we said could have been completely lost - in much the same way I think the intention of the bill that President Wilson signed was lost through time. National Parks have been destroyed and severely damaged by what Edward Abbey calls "industrial tourism" and yet all of that damage has been done in the name of that very bill that Wilson signed. Its all in how you interpret what you hear. I saw that in a very tangible way in my team meeting the other day. I see it every day in conversations with my wife. I see it blasted all over the news & media. People spend very little time trying to actually understand the intent, purpose, and meaning of what others say and instead focus all their energy on interpreting however they feel. Its sad because not only does communication break down, but we don't accomplish any of the things we actually want to accomplish. The worst part is that if we stopped being selfish for 2 seconds we might actually be able to stop this. Unfortunately, too often we are too wrapped up in our view to help ourselves. My goal? To start listening - and avoid the problems of interpretive hearing.