Thursday, 12 February 2015

Time to change the frequency

I had a revelation the other day.

I have them every so often. Mostly it's nothing particularly earth shattering. But occasionally I think to myself, "Hey, that's kind of interesting. I wonder if anybody ever thought of that before."

I was in my car. I was listening to the radio. I was listening to a station I wanted to listen to. I also had kids in my car. They weren't so keen on listening to the station I was listening to. Of course, I didn't end up listening to that station for too much longer.

Thinking about that experience made me think about the whole idea of different radio stations, broadcasting on different frequencies. It made me think of the numerous times I try to talk to my kids and they completely fail to pay attention to me. No matter how loudly or insistently I speak, there's no way I can batter my way into their consciousness as they continue to chat away together. And that's when I realised it.

My kids and I are on different radio frequencies. They're communicating on one radio frequency, and I'm communicating on another one entirely. That's why they are completely incapable of tuning in to what I'm saying. Every so often, we find a cross frequency that works (usually when the words chocolate, ice cream, or pizza are involved), but mostly we're on completely different wavelengths.

This got me thinking about the whole frequency thing (I know, I've said before that thinking is one of my bad habits). What about all those other times when people fail to understand each other? What about people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, or religious people vs non-religious people. We're all talking to each other. We actually seem to be speaking the same language. And yet, we're broadcasting on completely different frequencies from each other. It's no wonder we never seem to actually engage with what we're saying.

So what can we do about this? I'm not sure I have an answer (which I find very frustrating because I'm a problem-solving kind of guy). We certainly don't want to end up with just one frequency. Imagine if there was only one station you could listen to on the radio - how boring would that be. But maybe, we can try to make the time to change our "stations" every now and again, and try to listen to something on another frequency, even if we think we're not going to like it.

No idea what the outcome might be, but at least it's a neat sounding metaphor, and I love a good metaphor as much as the next writer.

Till next week, hope your frequency is a good one.


  1. No one reaches everyone. Only 71% of Americans watched this year’s super bowl, a measly 114.4 million viewers. Not quite sure how they got to the 71% since there were 318.9 million Americans alive in 2014 but the point I’m making is that millions of people didn’t watch the game and billions outside the States didn’t watch the game. Not everyone like sport. Not everyone likes nature or Vegemite or BDSM. You can’t please all the people all of the time. It’s hard enough to please most of the people some of the time and these days if you can please anybody any of the time you think you’ve won a watch. I think part of the problem is genres, specialisation, increasingly fussy people. It’s like the coffee scene from L.A. Story:

    Tom: I'll have a decaf coffee.
    Trudi: I'll have a decaf espresso.
    Morris: I'll have a double decaf cappuccino.
    Ted: Give me decaffeinated coffee ice cream.
    Harris: I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.
    Trudi: I'll have a twist of lemon.
    Tom: I'll have a twist of lemon.
    Morris: I'll have a twist of lemon.
    Cynthia: I'll have a twist of lemon.

    It’s why we have sequels. People like something so the powers that be think it not unreasonable to try to produce something as close to that original experience as possible because that clearly works. Best example ever? Scooby-Doo which has rehashed the same plot over and over again since 1969. Frequencies, to use your expression, are like trends. Scooby-Doo defies all logic. It should never have lasted this long. Fashions come and go and then they come back again reimagined. Platform soles date back to ancient Greece and they’ve been in and out of fashion ever since.

    Quality never goes out of fashion though, not completely. Which is why there’ll be people discovering Howlin’ Wolf and Monty Python and William Shakespeare for the first time for ever and ever. There are only so many frequencies. The journalist Michael Allen claims to have never read any of his father's books or writings. I’m not sure that’s anything to crow about but I get it. I give my daughter a copy of every book I write and she says she reads them but does she really read them. Perhaps when I die she’ll look for a way to reconnect and pick them up again and maybe by that time she’ll have matured enough to see what I’m actually all about.

  2. Hi Jim,

    I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel as if my frequency is jammed.