Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


Many decades ago, I learned a way of thinking that has affected me ever since. I think many people learn this naturally, others never get there.

It goes something like this, and we will use a letter (I still write them) or an email to illustrate the point. For the purpose here, we will just call them correspondence.

You receive some correspondence from someone you know. It conveys the subject which is plainly in its content. But why did the person write it? Were they sharing a concern for you? Were they trying to persuade you of their point of view on an issue? Perhaps they were trying to irritate you.

All communication is on at least two levels, perhaps even more than that. We’ve all learned to be skeptical of politicians and telemarketers. They may say one thing to us but what is their real motivation in even engaging with us to start with? The politician wants a vote; the telemarketer wants to make their commission this month.

Yet, this extends to every conversation we have. Seldom is a communication or conversation just for the joy of communicating. Yes, some are, but they are the exception.

Perhaps you don’t, but I spend a lot of time looking at graphs and charts in my line of work. I have learned to view all graphs and charts with suspicion, regardless of the venue. Why? Everyone who builds a graph or chart is doing so for what reason? To make a point.

Thus, they get to choose what information to present and how they present it to you. This is not done in a vacuum; they are doing this deliberately in a way to persuade their audience of a point of view.

After years of working with such material in many different fields, I think I could take about any information and present it in a way that is persuasive to my point of view.

Governments and other influential bodies are very good at this, and they are counting on you not thinking very deeply about what they are presenting. We call this accepting something at face value.

When we are a child, we accept everything at face value, that is why children are so vulnerable to adults with evil intent. As we grow and mature, however, most of us have an ability to get slightly beyond face value.

What I am trying to move you to do with this column, is take this perspicacity to the next level, to learn to automatically evaluate all the information flowing toward you at a deeper level. If you succeed, some of you will find joy in this new skill, others will hate me for exposing you to this way of thinking – for once learned, you can’t turn it off.

For practice, you can turn this skill toward me, your writer. Why do I write these columns, and why did I write this particular column? These are valid questions.

These are several answers here.

The most innocuous one is that I like to write, and this is an outlet for me. Another is that Highland County is where I spent my teenage years, and this provides me with a vicarious connection to those times. I also like to challenge people to think, not just in this column but in all my columns. I challenge myself to be provocative every week, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t.

I like to imagine that I send you to the dictionary when I use words like “perspicacity,” “innocuous” and so forth. Of course, I am aware that my imagination in this area may be an insult to you, for all I know, you may live in a perspicacious family. I apologize if that is the case.

Nevertheless, try looking at all the information assaulting you – not just that from politicians and telemarketers – on a deeper level.

As an aside, our fifth grandchild was born a couple of weeks ago, his first name is Davis. His proud parents came home with stories of what other parents were naming their children in the hospital that week. One was named “SSSST.” This is pronounced Four-est. Another was named “hijkmn.” This is pronounced “No-L.”

I weep for the future generations.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at [email protected]