All along the train tracks to and from Rome, Italy we saw great examples of colorful graffiti. Being a fan of letters and color I did what I could to snap photos of some of the examples. I was impressed by the skill and consistency of the lettering having no idea what any of the words mean as they are in Italian. The graffiti followed us into the cites, small towns, and began appearing on beautiful old buildings. Suddenly I was no longer impressed with the lettering as an art form. I was outraged that anyone could mark up a historic landmark with spray paint. I was shocked that people had the nerve to deface brick that had been around for hundreds of years.
As we ride past miles and miles of graffiti all over the city and historic buildings I realized I had appreciated it at one time and gotten aggravated by it at other times. So it’s okay to put spray paint on railroad bridges and any surface facing the train tracks, but not on other buildings? Why is that? As I asked myself that question it didn’t really make sense. I first thought it was an art form later I thought it was vandalism? How could it be both?
The different between the two sides is subjective. My opinion and attitude changed as I rode from one end of the country to another. I began to see anger, frustration, a cry for help and a release of boredom. I saw creative people using any surface they could find to express themselves in hopes of someone reading it and reacting. Maybe the reaction they wanted was shock, awe, rage. Depending upon what they wrote and where they wrote it they may have elicited all three of those emotions and more. The goal was to somehow communicate their message in a place and manner that would capture the attention and quite possibly make people think.
How many times is that true of our own communication? We start off with one message and by the time it travels it ends up as something completely different. We try to be clear and communicate what we want to say not taking into account how the audience will receive our message. So we use more words, add more emotion, add more color, and maybe talk louder and slower until we assume they understand. Not realizing that we were in a monologue not a dialogue. We were doing all the talking and none of the listening. Our message as it reaches it’s end would most likely get jumbled up and retransmitted causing confusion and igniting various emotions.
Maybe instead of writing on walls we need to listen more, stop and hear what is being said, finally take the time to process the message. Instead of rushing past it all we need to stop and truly understand the message being written, even if it is Italian, or on a wall, or defacing a historic building. Not once did I stop to translate the words and letters, I left the message without truly understanding what was being communicated.
So who needs to learn to communicate better here? the person writing on walls with spray paint or the person reading the words? Maybe both could use a lesson in the art of communication both on the sending and receiving side.