This morning I would like to start with a personal conversation that my husband and I had several weeks ago…because well snippets of this conversation have been rumbling around in my head for several weeks. It was pertaining to the term non sequitur.
So here’s how it went down. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but I spoke my opinion and my husband told me that was non sequitur. To which I responded, what does that mean….because in that space and time, I had no idea!!! 🙂 Now those of you that know me, know that typically I share a lot, but I have a bad habit of not sharing every last detail of my thought process…so sometimes the thoughts that I do share are not linear in their thought process. And, well, non sequitur means that it’s a conclusion or logic that doesn’t follow along, or well, doesn’t make sense. 🙂 My husband, however, knows me very well…and when he said that that was non sequitur, it stopped me in my tracks. At that very moment in time, I had no idea what non sequitur meant. I know, I’m not the most linguistic, and well, I don’t use many $10 words when a $1 word works just fine….so non sequitur was just stumping me in my moment.
His response though was “what do you mean you don’t know what non sequitur means” as he went on to explain that non sequitur meant not following a logical track, and I had heard the term used hundreds of times in Star Trek. Apparently in Star Trek the computer would frequently tell the crew that their request was non sequitur. I, however, having heard hours and hours of Star Trek episodes had no recollection of that having happened at all…however, here’s the really interesting part, I had always thought that the computer had told the crew that their request was “illogical”. Randy told me, no, that’s what Spock would say, and that Scotty would say “Jim, I can not change the laws of physics!” ….a quote that we use all the time in our house! 🙂 Now, you Trekkie fans, probably know both of those sayings inside and out. Anyway, that was pretty much the end of the conversation, as I went back and explained my thought process and then we proceeded to fast forward through a lot of Star Trek episodes trying to catch just one “non sequitur” response from the computer.
Fast forward to the next day and a conversation with my daughter. Cassie, my daughter, is trying to learn Spanish. Anyway, she was saying that in her quest to learn Spanish that several language experts suggested that she carry a Spanish dictionary with her and literally look up any Spanish word she heard that she didn’t know. She went on to explain that when she immersed herself in the language though that wasn’t her strategy that instead she triangulated the meanings of words. Meaning, when she heard a word she didn’t know, she used her understanding of the rest of the sentence to help her define the word/words she didn’t know. And, that when she heard the word again, she could then refine her understanding of the meaning or rebuke the definition and redefine the word altogether. And, I had an epiphany. I realized at that moment that when I had heard the computer on Star Trek say non sequitur, that I had “heard” “illogical”. Meaning, I was triangulating on the fly the meaning of what the computer was saying…so much so, that I totally had not picked up on the actual words at all. Isn’t that interesting? I had contextualized the meaning for non sequitur so completely, that when the term was isolated, I had no idea what it meant! At that moment, I felt an experiment coming on!
The next day I was in Weeping Water teaching Code Camp. I was explaining how while that day we were going to be talking about how coding is used to program computers, that coding, as a concept, was used in every walk of life. And, like so many times before, I used a driving example. Typically most, if not all, of the kids in the class are not old enough to drive, however, they still know many of the codes of driving. And, I demonstrate this, as I say out loud, “pretend that I’m driving down the road and I see a red light”…and the kids at Weeping Water shouted out “stop”. And, I stopped walking. Then I say “oh look, now the light is green”, and the kids will shout out that “it’s okay to go now”. Then we talk about how they know that….well, the answer of course is that there is a code associated with driving…and that in order to drive well, you have to be able to understand the code. But Weeping Water was different that day, as one of the kids shouted out that “driving is opposite of a watermelon”. My response, “non sequitur”, …because I had just recently, so thoroughly explored the term. I explained the meaning of non sequitur, and he explained to me that when eating a watermelon, you go when it’s red, and you stop when it’s green….so in fact, driving is opposite of a watermelon! I apologized as now I understood his thought process, and indeed it was not non sequitur….and my second epiphany of the week happened.
Perhaps sometimes we all get “quick” to judge something as non sequitur as perhaps most people triangulate meaning from bits and pieces of conversation(s). We all carry a bit of baggage, in that we all have had prior experiences that we mentally draw upon to “explain” or “give meaning” to the current situation. Now we can’t carry everyone with us so that they can participate in every experience that we have so that everyone would of course triangulate exactly the same. So, it seems human to triangulate meaning. I’m not saying that triangulation of meaning is wrong…it certainly may be the fastest way to learn in many instances…but perhaps sometimes it leads us down a road of misunderstanding just as quickly. And, I’m not saying that we should all stop triangulating meaning…because well…our minds might just be wired that way, and it would be a pointless endeavor. Perhaps instead, we just need to be prepared to pause when we are hit with a moment where we are thinking that the conversation is non sequitur….ask questions…seek meaning! And, don’t be embarrassed to ask when you don’t understand what is happening or what is being said….there is not anyone who understands everything…we just all are human computers…triangulating and decoding as fast as we can!