We take normal conversation for granted. But, how many times have we come away from a discussion and realized that we did not really get the full meaning of what was said to us?
For example, when my dad came out of surgery and was placed in ICU, my mom and brother and I sat down with the surgeon to hear what he had to say about the surgery. He said "The tumor was very aggressive, but I think I got it all".
Well, after the doc left us, we began to discuss what he said. I said I was so happy that there was no cancer.....but then again, while the surgeon did not use the word "cancer", he did use the word "aggressive". What did "aggressive" mean? Was that different from cancer or was it an easy way for him to tell us dad's condition without using the "C" word? Two days later we found out that dad did indeed have cancer, but the doctor just didn't have it in him to tell us. We should have "read between the lines".
Another example was the time in college when I asked Maggie Ellen to go to the concert with me---she responded by saying "I'd LOVE to go with you, Clint, but there may be a family matter I have to attend to...." It turns out the "family matter" was a date with Joey, who had not yet got around to asking her when I called. I should have "read between the lines".
And, of course, our entire citizenry has been thoroughly educated by a former president on the importance of knowing what "is" is. We should have read between the lines.
In fact, reading between the lines is a most important skill; for, in virtually every verbal interraction we must employ that skill.
I wrote this poem in 1999. I hope you enjoy it.
Between the Lines
Between the lines the truth does lie
In understated, silent, sly
Suggestion; thus, 'tis hard to know
Exact explanations, and so
We wonder whether, what, and why.
We read and listen; then do try
To interpret meaning, and spy
Understanding beyond, below,
Between the lines.
Weigh woven words which may belie
The thoughts that underneath them fly
Averse; so secretely they sow
Innate insights, inklings which grow---
Lying, lurking with spectral sigh...
Between the lines.
(C) 1999 Clint Ellison