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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sarcasm

As I've observed sarcasm in social interactions, I've noted that those who use it tend to underestimate its negative effects because they assume that what they say is humorous instead of hurtful. People who use sarcasm often think their targets are too sensitive or na├»ve when feelings get hurt. “She just can’t take a joke,” they say. In more disturbing cases, sarcasm communicates contempt for others and gives people the “dishonest opportunity to wound without looking like they’re wounding.”8 If someone feels hurt by such sarcasm, the one who made the verbal jab will often respond with something like, “I was only teasing! Lighten up.” ~Jennifer Grace Jones, Ensign. Aug, 2013
Sarcasm, as I understand it, is irony directed at a person. It's saying something we don't mean. Which, by definition, is not truthful. Now, just to clarify, I believe there is a difference between sarcasm directed at a person and being facetious about a situation. Facetiousness is saying "Lovely weather we're having" while you and your friend are running through pouring rain. (Unless, of course, you happen to adore downpours. In which case that's simply a statement of opinion.) But when sarcasm is directed at people, it can have a wounding effect. Even though we don't *really* mean what we say.
Think of Sherlock, or House. Hilarious on television, but would you really want one of them in your circle of friends? They make people cry on a regular basis, and we laugh. However, in real life, that's not so funny. Sarcastic humor can be contagious. It's a habit that I've sometimes fallen into, and it's not always easy to break.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Learning to read again

I am relearning the art of reading. It's true. I haven't had to read a text critically for approximately two years. There's a big difference between "reading for fun" and attempting to understand really complicated language that's trying to say something about literature, the universe and everything. I'm not saying the second option isn't fun; it is! Otherwise, there's no way I'd be starting my masters program right now. However, it's a skill that's been a bit rusty for a while, and it's nice to get it out, polish it up and put it to use again.
Writing and reading critically are highly connected. For a couple of my classes, I'm required to write reading responses or summaries of the readings. Writing down in my own words what the article says requires me to simplify, which requires me to understand what I'm reading in the first place. It's quite a helpful exercise and it's definitely not busy work. As I complete the writing assignment, I have the opportunity to actually put my brain to work while I'm reading, rather than just passively consuming. If  I don't take notes while I'm reading and try to "reconstruct" the text, then it's easy to arrive at the end of an article with absolutely no idea what I just "read".
Actively engaging with various texts is a very important part of education. It's a skill that no one is born with, but anyone can learn. Learning to read is fun!