by Harry Banks

by Harry Banks, April 25, 2014

I'm guessing that most of you don't consider an afternoon sled dog ride behind eight huskies an everyday occurrence.  But at our house we can hook up a team in our yard and head out into a maze of trails and travel a few miles or up to 50 or 60 miles of trails.
The other day I went for a brief afternoon sled dog ride with my wife.  I happened to have my iPhone and grabbed some short clips: passing trail signs, the driver's shadow cast on the passing snow, dogs charging turns to the right, turns to the left, trail turns not taken …  I ended up faced with several clips I wasn't sure how to use.  Then I ran across a program which had an adventure movie trailer sound track.  All I had to do was load several of my ordinary little clips, and the routine dogsled ride through our neighborhood trails suddenly became a grand, dramatic story of an epic journey.
The movie was really quite impressive, but not very representative of the actual experience.  I went around showing it to our neighbors and friends who are mostly veteran mushers with thousands of miles of serious wilderness crossings.  They immediately got the humor of portraying such a simple afternoon run as a major epic adventure.  Which got me to thinking about the need for congruity between action and sound.  I started reflecting on some experiences that I associate with effective congruent communication.
Wordless Workshop
As a youngster visiting my grandparents' farm I would sit in the reading chair and read through the stacks of magazines.  Farm Journal, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science.  One of the features that I always searched for first in the Popular Science magazines was cartoonist Roy Doty's "Wordless Workshop."  I was always intrigued how efficiently a few well-drawn cartoon panels with no words could present eloquent solutions to little day-to-day problems.
A No-Language Language
A visit to the renowned school for the deaf, Gallaudet University, in Washington, D.C., also offers a dramatic view of alternative communication.  Walking past the pool, you hear music turned up loud enough for you to feel the vibrations with your body.  Watching the American Sign Language flashing from hands to eyes, with several hundred sing language conversations in the two-floor student union court yard, was fascinating.  If each of the conversations had been shouted from balcony to main floor the din would have been deafening (pun intended).
My partner was on campus to take an introductory class, since she was a support person for the American Sign Language (ASL) department at Anchorage Community College.  After the first session she emerged from the class with a look of incredulity.  The class, she found out, had nothing to do with ASL.  Rather the class was to use no…  NO… recognized language.  The students were to communicate a newspaper article, a recipe, a "how-to" demonstration, and a poem with no reference to a recognized language, written or signed.
Hmmm … It was quite revealing to hear how the students successfully responded to these challenging assignments.  After one learns the solutions, the challenge appears simple.  But that first day it seemed hugely daunting.  Just for fun, how would you respond to the challenge?
What will they see without the sound track?
At our In His Steps Community Fellowship Sabbath morning Bible study we have been looking at the book of John.  You know the passages where Jesus commands us to love one another, where he calls us friends, and invites us to abide or remain connected to the true vine, "for without Me you can do nothing."  Nothing?  Really?!  You gotta be kidding … Of course I can do it on my own.  I'm educated.  I've been raised Adventist.  I can articulate all the technicalities of truth!  I write a column for Adventist Today!
Hmmm … So it got me to thinking … What would my Christian faith look like if someone turned off the sound? Could people tell by only observing my behavior that I was a believer? Could they tell that I believed in a God of redemption, forgiveness, restoration? Could they tell that I actually loved the people placed around me?
Hmmm …. Where is that sound track when I need it???