My problem has always been sounding like one. Or should I say- not really sounding like one.
Coming from a small village, growing up tromping in the woods, catching frogs and riding four (and three!) wheelers since I was six years old doesn't really suit the use of a higher level vocabulary. Why would I want to use words and phrase structures that others around me would find weird, snobby or not understand? I wanted to communicate, not preach (or pontificate).
Yoga in the park- circle warrior III hands from inside the circle. All students- practicing together!
I think this is an invaluable lesson when trying to articulate your thoughts and form ideas and opinions to be shared. The way a message is packaged, the vocabulary, speaking and reading level, has always been a point of contention for me with academia, feminism and blogs.
It became increasingly clear that those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford university do not represent the population as whole. Even less so at the graduate level. I can't understand why movements like the feminism movement, would package ideas and theories at a language level so completely foreign to so many. If we want cultural and social change, shouldn't we be spreading the message in a way that makes sense to everyone? So even my grandmother, who didn't go further than grade 7, would be able to read and relate? (I was kicked out of that book club passive-aggressively, they changed the date and place so I wouldn't know where they were meeting...).
The same applies to the environmental movement, yoga and my blog. Over the past few years I've gone to several public environmental lectures at Dalhousie University. They've all been very interesting and informative. Unfortunately, they've all been wrapped up and presented in an extremely intimidating academia-speak... and predictably the only people there were students and academics (and us).
These people already get the message, they already buy in to the bottom line. They already know.
At times I find yoga blogs, articles and 'speak' to be similar. In the sense that it's either packaged in an intensely scriptural way, quoting the Gita or Sutras and throwing in countless sanskrit terms. It's not that I don't see the value in using appropriate sanskrit terminology for asana, nor the value of sharing 'parables' and spiritual insights. I just don't feel that it's the most inclusive way to share a message. Honestly, most people are not going to relate. It all depends if that's a goal or not.
A great example is a recent commenter's use of the word 'proprioception'. I used 'spatial awareness' to describe my inability to know where my own body is in space. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I know the official 'Occupational Therapist' terminology for this is 'proprioception', which was kindly pointed out in the comment section. I might know this, but 'spatial awareness' will not only be much more self-explanatory (who wants to copy and google a word while reading anyhow?), it will get my point across in a much more inclusive fashion.
I might also know that our 'ear drum' is technically called our 'tympanic membrane' or that our 'vocal cords' are actually 'vocal folds', and having trouble swallowing is 'dysphagia'. Just because I know this doesn't mean I have to use it in my regular every day speak, or while trying to dialog with an unknown group of readers about a message I think is important to share (like the importance of avoiding q-tips while cleaning your ears, proper use of voice while teaching a yoga class or how to help protect your father's lungs while he eats after a having had a stroke).
When I don't know who my listeners are, I can't assume either way.
When I started writing this blog, it was for the purpose of sharing some environmental insights that I see as being a primordial aspect of Yoga and my Spiritual Pagan path.
If I want someone to make a small change (or a big one) I could go three ways:
- intimidate the crap out of them with a very formal science speak. 'I use big words, hear me roar!' Some people prefer this type of rhetoric, but you peeps are the minority.
- be completely silly and use very low vocabulary and simple explanations. This can be entertaining, but it's never my goal to assume that the reader can't understand a concept- it's insulting. Which isn't my goal.
- Find the balance of an appropriate reading level, humour, approachableness, likeability and respect while still putting forth the information and ideas in an organized manner.
This is the hardest thing. Finding this balance. I do believe that this precarious balance (or failing to find it) is the reason why so many scientists have trouble communicating theories, ideas and science to the rest of us... and why so many people still believe that Climate Change doesn't exist.
What do you think?
(** ps- I DO think there are a lot of fabulous writers and communicators out there who do an amazing job in yoga, feminism and the environment. Usually, sadly, there's a backlash from the more academic community- think Gloria Steinem, or even Al Gore- for 'betraying' or playing to the media and being lifted up to the 'face of_____insert movement here' as a default of no one else stepping up.)
article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com