Incommunicable Answers

Some questions have an answer that cannot be given through words. It isn’t that it doesn’t have an answer or that the answer is vague, but that the answer is simply not linguistic. Let me give you a specific example from a medium that most people can grasp: FRIENDS (as in, the show). In the fourth episode of first season (The One With George Stephanopoulos), Rachel had finally received her first paycheck after choosing to leave a life of luxury:

RACHEL: Look look look look look, my first pay check! Look at the window, there’s my name! Hi, me! 
RACHEL: God, isn’t this exciting? I earned this. I wiped tables for it, I steamed milk for it, and it was totally- (OPENS ENVELOPE) -not worth it. Who’s FICA? Why’s he getting all my money? I mean, what- Chandler, look at that.

She finds herself disappointed. Then to seal in her doubt, her friends from her ditched rich life come into the coffeehouse to see her. She gets excited, spends the day with them, and comes home thoroughly crushed. She isn’t sure that leaving her life of luxury was such a good idea after all.

MONICA: You should feel great about yourself! You’re doing this amazing independence thing!
RACHEL: Monica, what is so amazing? I gave up, like, everything. And for what?
PHOEBE: You are just like…Jack and the Beanstalk.

PHOEBE: Yeah, right! See, he gave up something, but then he got those magic beans. And then he woke up, and there was this, this big plant outside his window, full of possibilities and stuff.. And he lived in a village, and you live in the Village.

RACHEL: But see, it (her old life) was a plan. Y’know, it was clear…

MONICA: So what, you’re not the only one. I mean, half the time we don’t know where we’re going. You’ve just gotta figure at some point it’s all gonna come together…

RACHEL: Okay, but Monica, what if- what if it doesn’t come together? 

RACHEL: Okay, see, see, you guys, what if we don’t get magic beans? I mean, what if all we’ve got are.. beans?

At the time this question is asked, her friends can’t answer. In the show, they didn’t answer because they were afraid of the answer. But in reality it’s more than that. What they don’t realize is that the reason they can’t answer it is because it isn’t an answer that’s verbal. It’s an answer directly to the heart. You can’t really share something like that with someone who hasn’t yet learned it for themselves. At the end of the episode, Rachel looks fondly at her friends and sees the richness of her life of poverty and says, “I’m fine. I’ve got magic beans!” And that’s just it; it’s a richness that can’t be explained in words. Try as she may, she’ll never be able to explain that to her wealthy friends; they’ll never be able to understand how giving up that life could be trading up. But it is.

Parenting is like that too. I can’t even say that it’s “worth it” (who’s FICA?!); and yet, I wouldn’t ever want to go back. I don’t regret it. It’s just so rich in a way that cannot be answered with words. It’s a heart lesson.

There are so many answers in this life that are non verbal. So many lessons that are direct to the heart.


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