It would be appropriate to start with a quotation from Rumi: However you know a lot, the things that you can tell are limited to the things that the listener can understand.
That summarizes the whole problematics of interpersonal communication, but still–as each person believes that he or she can tell–let’s try again. I was invited to speak about Albert Camus’ The Stranger at a private ladies book club. I knew one of the participants: she is a great lady working at a non-profit and a member of board of directors of another. When I came across her at a Jazz concert at the New York Youth Symphony, we briefly talked about Camus and Existentialism. There I told her that I was working on my thesis subject the similarities and differences between Existentialism and Sufism. A few weeks after that I received an email from her inviting me to join their session on The Stranger and talk about Existentialism and Sufism. I said, it would be my pleasure and it was a pleasure.
I went to a very nice building at the Upper West Side [I have been told that the famous gangster Frank Costello was shot in the lobby] and entered the apartment. I was the only male and the only person below fifty, which was great. Then we started to talk about the book, what happens to Meursault and how he falls out of existence, how he detaches himself, etc. Then I was expected to begin speaking, which would lead the way to Existentialism and Sufism, starting from reflecting to what each one has said so far and then elaborating on that to a point where I could start speaking. By the time, I almost began my topic, I recognized that [I should have recognized that a long time ago] the people I was talking to does not have as much knowledge about the topic. That was the moment I rerouted my content and context. There I got stuck. Then restarted a while after in another simpler manner, which I wasn’t very used to doing. On the other hand, it is already hard to talk on philosophical ideas in a second language. There you can see that there were various layers of lingual, ideal, cultural and existential boundaries among each other, which seems to be unalterable–which ironically overlaps with the topic of The Stranger. Once again not only I have felt the difficulty of interpersonal communications, but what the outsider stands for. But, that doesn’t mean that i couldn’t talk about anything at all, indeed it was a very fruitful and delicate discussion. The only thing is that I know what I have inside, but I couldn’t put all of them out to my audience the way they would be able to hear them. In simpler English sentences, not Turkish not academic not gibberish. I am content with the things that I have said, but unsatisfied because I could have given them more. This dilemma of communications will exist as long as we do exist.
This, once again, puts forward the importance of declamation and rhetoric within the sphere of communications. This is one of the reasons [why we had the discussion about Hitler] why Obama is the President of the USA and McCain not. One must be able to express what he thinks, not only know it. That again takes us back to Camus, within his utter simplicity was able to explain extremely difficult state of being to a vast number of people. That also is the dilemma of the academics, who spend their lives becoming experts on ideas and concepts, which they lack the ability to explain to the common man. Or at least get the other’s interest and empathy on what you say: attract their attention.
But, another thing: what is this common man anyway? That’s another day’s topic. I will try to deal with the expatriate intellectuals and how they are received at home and abroad: Orhan Pamuk, Marjane Satrapi, Khaled Hosseini, etc.