True Fluency (Welcome)
… I talk to fill the embarrassing silence: “We gather facts and draw conclusions. If we draw them often enough, we call it knowledge.”
Now, there are others in the lecture hall nodding. One or two are smiling. I smile back. Then, I am ambushed by a thought that I say aloud: “And, our emotions and actions try to confirm it.”
At this point, I don’t know what the people watching me can see. But, I know how I feel. I’ve been hit by lightning: a white-hot flash with jangling, jumping sparks.
I have said something, but I don’t know what it means. For me, that is an exquisite pain. A “who said that?” moment.
I want to talk. To continue the lecture. My mouth opens but it’s empty of words. At least, I won’t say anything stupid. I search the faces before me. Some are staring; some distracted. A few are glancing at their notes. Someone peeks at their watch.
I take a sip from the glass of water. The crystalline moment melts away. The clock resumes its ticking.
Then, face flushed, I turn to the whiteboard, scribbling some key points about logic and policy development. I try to continue as though nothing has changed. Only a couple of minutes, and it is done. The lecture hall rapidly empties. I stand on the podium alone. I am wondering what on earth I meant when I said … What exactly did I say?
I see myself from high above, looking down on a small stage. I’m that figure “strutting and fretting.” But, for me, nothing is the same again. Never, ever again.
That mysterious moment supercharges my work for the next thirty years. I pick and prod at it. I twist and turn it. I fuss and fiddle until, eventually, it begins to make sense. And, the sense grows to knowledge. The knowledge becomes a passion. So, this book is dedicated to that moment. It is the product of those years of work to make sense of a comment, a common conclusion, and a shared smile.
I think about that moment and, instantly, I am back in that lecture hall. I take a sip from the glass of pure water, searching for that missing meaning. Then, I understand, and I am fluent again.
Welcome to the
Infra Language Course
I’m Francis Walsh.
Ahead of you is an extraordinary experience. It will radically alter the way you understand yourself and everyone you meet. And, more.
When your study is complete, you will be able to perceive people, persuade them, and predict their behavior at a new level.
What you will learn is not new. Rather, it is as old and as God-given as a weather worn mountain range. But, like that range, it is usually ignored, overlooked, or broken into less meaningful parts by those who cannot see the whole.
And, your learning will reframe your understanding of people. You will be able to recombine seemingly unrelated parts of yourself and make yourself whole again. As you study, as your fluency improves, you will see a truly blessed unity in the diversity of our lives.
I hope you feel the passion that electrifies these lessons in our fundamental form of communication: Infra Language.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Understanding Infra Language
Your Mind’s Talking
“How exquisitely the individual Mind …
to the external World is fitted:-
and how exquisitely, too …
the external World is fitted to the Mind …”
I am lying on my back on the beach. After swimming, the salty seawater dries quickly on my skin in the heat. The sounds are muted. The air is calm. The sky is clear. I see only what is before me: the flat sea, dark blue, and the flat sky, light blue. The world is poised. My mind settles in meditation … in prayer. Peace. I have an overwhelming sense that I am real. At last, rest.
Then, my ears pop open. The water plugs release a warm flood of sound. Beach noises wash over me. I look around. There are hundreds of people: reading, talking, listening to music, throwing footballs, sleeping, breathing. The colors are astonishing: red, white, orange, pink, black, green, yellow. I smell the sea air and the coconut sunblock cream. I brush the sand and the towel with my hand. A kid runs up from the water, scattering a wake of cool drops on everyone he passes.
I am suddenly dumped into the world of the senses. Each surges and slumps over the other. They undermine then overwhelm. I wander through the million stimuli. And, truly, I sense that I am not real. I disintegrate into a world pinpointed by sensation.
Here, at this moment, is the start of understanding. It is the beginning of a conversation that becomes a language. And, that language is before us and in us throughout our lives. Yet, we hardly perceive it.
It is a language that forms the foundations of our thoughts, communication, and actions. It is called “Infra Language.”
Being Fluent in Infra Language
When you are fluent in Infra Language you will:
1. Recognize it. You will soon perceive it all the time.
2. Understand it. You will know its modes.
3. Use it. You will think more clearly, perceive more powerfully, communicate more exactly, and influence more profoundly.
All humans use Infra Language with varying degrees of skill. The most successful use Infra Language with great refinement, whether they realize it or not.
“A different language is a different vision of life.”
Why is it called “Infra Language?”
You will first understand Infra Language through communication.
So, “language” is the right term.
“Infra,” in this context, means “below” or “under”. So, Infra Language is based on the foundations and framework of all our communication.
For a moment, imagine yourself submerged beneath the ordinary language of words, sentences, paragraphs. Slip, for a minute or two, below body language and micro expressions and even sign language. Dive under everything that expresses, and you will find your mind at work. It’s thinking.
We all share this link between thinking and communicating. It’s a bond that holds humans to each other like gravity holds us to mother Earth. As our mind thinks, we create messages that we offer. We receive messages from other people and information from the world around us.
Infra Language shows you how people’s minds work.
“No man is an island, entire of itself …”
The Info Age: a High Tech Cage
“Houston. We’ve had a problem here.”
That calm but profoundly disturbing message from Jack Swigert in Apollo 13 to Mission Control on 13 April 1970 seems more momentous over time. They are running out of oxygen. Things are not right.
The message, nowadays shortened to “Houston. We have a problem,” is the call of the lead scout back to base, warning of danger. It is as simple and as significant as a finger touching a flame.
“Ouch!” (Withdraws hand rapidly.) “Brain, we have a problem.”
We have a problem and it’s getting dangerous. It is as loud as the earth grinding on its axis but so common that we hardly hear it.
All day, every day we collect information. We are grazing animals, sifting through facts from the moment we wake to the moment we snore. We are probably doing it during our sleeping hours, too. Some say we vacuum about four million facts a second. We notice only about two thousand.
When we are with people, we see their eyes, their lips, their hands, their feet, their hair, their clothes, their gestures, their facial expressions, and their posture. Around them we see chairs, tables, walls, paintings, computer screens, windows, vehicles, birds, clouds, trees, mountains, city buildings, bridges.
Those of us with sight are being constantly bombarded with visual images: enough to fill our mind many times over. Each of those named objects has a million variations of color, texture, character. Our minds process these, a million a moment.
But, our ears are working too, capturing the sound of our world: the clicking, scraping, tapping, whirring, creaking, whistling, banging, singing, scratching, howling, roaring, and booming: enough, you’d think, to fill our mind all over again.
And, those of us with a sense of smell are constantly surrounded by insinuating scents: the aroma of people, carpet, food, fresh air,
We love to linger with our sense of taste: we know the flavor of our mouths, our pens, our fingers, our partner’s lips, our food: cheese, chili, ketchup, and carrot.
We feel textures and touches like sandpaper, silk, shattered glass, feather, fur, flame, and needle jab.
It is enough, it seems, to fill our mind many, many times over.
“In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!”
But, we are highly refined. Touched by the transfiguring power of God. We can easily absorb all these sounds, smells and sights, tastes, and touches. We pay attention to some. We ignore others.
And, we can do more. We can combine them to create meaning: grainy air and acrid smell probably means fire; a gentle touch and soft voice probably means kindness.
We can do even more than that. People are so clever that we can manipulate other people’s senses. That’s how we give out sophisticated messages.
We dress in corporate clothes to fit the group. We make our voice clear and characteristic, so people pay attention in meetings. We wash so, among other things, we don’t offend others with our smell during office hours. We shake hands to greet each other, rather than stroking each other’s noses. We offer our guests sweet cookies rather than neat shots of sour vinegar. We are clever, very clever.
If only the world stopped there. We could relax and just get on with our lives. But, no way.
What’s That Smell?
Today, shopping malls have odor neutralizers and perfume releases. They spray a fine mist from walls or ceilings or flavor the air conditioning. The Metro rail system in Paris has used French perfumes in its stations and tunnels. Quelle odeur!
Information Links the World
We live together, linked by proximity in huge cities and by powerful communication networks like cell phones, tablets, televisions, and radios. And, these powerful connections, created and exaggerated by modern technology, work aggressively on our senses. They and their content are not benign. They strike at us, seeking our attention.
When the first public address systems were created, a person could easily talk to a huge crowd. It was a miracle. In the 1940s, Mahatma Gandhi used a microphone and speakers to great effect to the massed crowds seeking an independent India.
When radio was invented, thousands could listen at one time. That happened in the 1920s and 1930s with baseball games.
When television spread, millions could listen and watch. Lucille Ball’s sitcom “I Love Lucy” was a hit from Australia to Austria, as well as in Albuquerque.
As the internet spread, people world-wide could listen, see, read, and interact anywhere, anytime, any topic.
Now we have crossed the Rubicon. We have gone over an ill-defined line (a penumbra) where this brilliant technology has turned. It is so good, so much fun, so powerful that we are in its thrall. And, we suffer from a frantic fever: energized and pacified at the same time. The gas pedal’s pressed hard to the metal, but the brake’s on, besides.
Information is not broadcast. It is delivered with the penetrating precision and explosive power of an automatic rifle shot.
We are attacked visually. And, the sound holds us steady during the assault.
At work, the constantly refreshed computer screen displays photographs, drawings, text, numbers, memes, and symbols.
As we drive through our cities, we see electronic billboards and warning messages next to blinking traffic lights. There are giant television screens on the sides of buildings.
At home, the television, computer, iPad or iPhone flashes astonishing pictures. Before a YouTube post, advertising flickers through five transitions a second. Other platforms dump news broadcasts with 5, 10, and 20-second visual grabs: highway wreckage, followed by baby seals, followed by a dark-suited politician talking, their top lip sweating. All the while, along the left margin of the screen, we see the graphic artist’s touch: blinking dots rise up and mountain views zoom gradually inward. Along the bottom margin, text chyrons scroll rapidly over a semi-transparent background of rippling water.
I can’t stop myself. I cannot look any more. And, yet, I cannot look away.
In his novel, 1984, George Orwell created a dystopia: a nightmarish totalitarian society in which a camera, set in an apartment wall, watches and questions. It was a powerful form of social control. Now, screens mesmerize us, constantly entertaining, informing, and commanding. There is no need for prying questions. There is nothing about us that is not known.
But, it is not just television. Even, magazines and newspapers are filled with brilliant color photographs, graphs, and charts as they try to compete with the dominating electronic media.
In fact, the whole modern world screams at us visually from dawn to dark, and then some.
And, the noise! The booming traffic. Alarms beeping, prompts clanking, timers shrilling. The cell phone rings, sings, and composes orchestrations. The microwave oven beeps a jingle endlessly as its screen scrolls: “Enjoy your meal” and “Happy Thursday.”
I caught myself saying “thank you” to the oven!
Airplanes thunder over the city roofs to land with reverse thrust that passengers barely hear over the cabin’s screeching CD player. The airport terminal is flooded with echoing announcements that challenge chattering televisions and the constant throbbing underlay of background music. The stores play their own market-aimed wall thump.
The 1960s brought us pop music’s “wall of sound” and the Niagara deluge of Jimi Hendrix’s screaming guitar. But, we have gone much further. Much further.
For pleasure, we watch movies that crash, whine, and wallop the multiplex with their clamor. At the gym, walls of televisions compete with booming surround-sound players wired to cupboard sized speakers. As you pedal your electronic exercise bike, someone says: “Turn it up. This is fun. Turn it up.”
No, no, no. NO! Turn it down. Turn it off. Stop it. STOP IT NOW!
I can’t hear myself think!
Huh? You can’t “hear yourself think?” Is that really true?
You see, there is method in this mangle. There is a reason. There’s a purpose. Behind the cacophony is a careful calculation. It’s not a conspiracy. More like a technique that’s become manic: boosted by supercharged technology.
Pity the poor person in this dizzying dystopia.
It is perfectly clear that things and people are noticed if they are seen
Some of the first television comedians, like Lucille Ball, used a penetrating voice so their jokes could be easily understood. In the early “I Love Lucy” shows, the star’s voice could slice through steel plate. In communication,
we call it “attention grabbing.”
The television set brought Lucille Ball right into our homes and her voice shouted her jokes into our ears. The jokes were funny. We could hear them clearly. We kept on listening and watching.
Our modern ear has premiered with a monstrous sensory overload.
Its impact is so significant that it traps your senses into a world of constantly renewed information. It is based on two triggers: intensity and proximity.
Now, they are both turned up to full blast.
The High Tech Cage
The Info Age has not just become louder, brighter, stronger, and more intense. It is faster. A million times faster.
Most of the time, you are not supposed to understand. You may vaguely develop a sense of meaning. But, don’t worry too much about that. This is simply entertainment. Its main job is to attract and distract. Nothing more.
In fact, there is nothing more. Trust me. There is nothing more.
Um, excuse me. Are you sure?
Houston, we’ve had a problem here.
Reader. We have a problem.
Beyond Information: it’s Bigger than Top Gun: Maverick
“In describing today’s accelerating changes, the media fire blips of unrelated information at us. Experts bury us under mountains of narrowly specialized monographs. Popular forecasters present lists of unrelated trends … As a result, change itself comes to be seen as anarchic, even lunatic.”
Let’s start straightaway.
You want to be yourself again. You want to pull yourself together and be whole again. Here’s an exercise. It’s utterly simple. It will begin to restore you.
If you want to escape the Mad Information Age, even for a blessed brief moment, do this.
Step 1: Take five minutes off. Stop everything. Stay still, wherever you are. Be quiet within yourself. Mentally, rest for a couple of moments.
Step 2: Just look and listen. Don’t get caught up in what you see and hear. Remain silent and still as you rest within a cool pool of detachment.
Stay there for a few more moments.
Step 3: Next, name three things you see or hear.
Step 4: Now the tricky bit. Choose one word that links all three.
Huh? That’s it?
Yep. And, it is far more important than it first seems.
You may have found that utterly easy. You may have found it tough.
You may have seen a desk and a computer. You may have heard a cell phone ring or heard a ding on your iPad. And, the word that linked those facts? Maybe it was “office” or “work” or “duty” or “effort.” The word itself doesn’t matter too much. But, you should be pleased.
Congratulations! You have just struck a mighty blow against the idiot end of the Mad Information Age. You have gathered facts and decided what they mean.
It may have felt natural to you. It should have. There’s nothing more natural in this world than a human thinking. It’s probably the best thing we do.
Points to Ponder
a. You don’t have to be dominated by information, facts, sounds, and sights that you receive. You can receive them with composure and poise.
b. Many of the things you saw and heard were not important. That goes for electronic media messages, too.
c. You are designed to receive information. You are very good at it.
But, you can do much more. You can make your own sense of it.
Meaning is all yours.
Try this exercise again in different places. Ask yourself these two questions.
1. Am I dominated by the information I receive?
2. Am I more than the sum of my senses?
Is Your Life a Travel Itinerary?
The Mad Info Age rules our thoughts, messages, and actions. It constantly cascades us with different, often unrelated, pieces of information that we receive through our senses.
In the Mad Info Age, our lives become a list: a résumé of facts.
When a traveler talks about their trip, they list the countries visited: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia. Why not mention the people, the perceptions, or the emotions? Why not talk about the colors or your cultural conclusions?
They do not describe a journey; they list an itinerary.
If you captured their conversation, you would often hear “and” and “then.”
Only occasionally would you hear “so” and “therefore.”
The words “and” and “then” are linear. They say: “I have one idea and I now have another idea that is equally important.”
“And” creates a sequence. “Then” creates a sequence in time.
“So” and “therefore” are signals for conclusions. That involves thinking.
And, that’s different. The Mad Info Age doesn’t want you to think to a conclusion. They’ll give you the conclusion. (Sorry, I meant to say “they’ll give you THEIR conclusion).
“Language is the dress of thought.”
The Delirium of Dots
Sometimes information appears as a delirium of dots. It’s a world of disconnected and, sometimes, unrelated bullet points. Reading through text, you will get some information that is important and some that is dross. There won’t be much modulation between the two.
In fact, their lists degrade the important stuff. It’s all just a snow-flurry of facts. But, sometimes it is far from benign.
In 2004, it was reported in the first weeks of the Iraq War that some ground troops had spent up to 11 hours downloading information on their laptops about enemy positions. Before danger struck, they saw the enemy directly in front of them, ignored the information, and attacked. It wasn’t a problem with download speeds. It was the deluge of information that fouled things up.
But, now, it’s not just the overload problem that we face. Sometimes, boredom limps in and slumps itself down in a comfortable couch. If you expect dazzling dots, anything else can seem like too much effort.
I have even noticed some of my graduate students have extremely short attention spans. During lectures, they need constant entertainment with multimedia fireworks to keep them focused. They want dot points and slogans. Some turn off as soon as they see a complex paragraph.
But, the problem is more deep-seated than lack of attention.
I asked one student about his knowledge of President Johnson’s administration in the mid-1960s.
He said: “I don’t know anything about that. I wasn’t born then.”
Must you have experienced something directly to know about it?
A famous tennis player was asked a series of questions about their sport. How was the unusual scoring style developed? Why is zero called “love?”
They knew nothing about the history of tennis. They knew how to play it. As far as they were concerned, that was all they needed. Everything else was “before they were born.”
And, that tells us about the Mad Info Age. It bombards our senses. It stops us thinking. It unplugs our memories, and we lose our history.
You see, memory is created through intellectual processing. If the information goes in one ear and out the other, we don’t remember it. And, without memory, our actions lead to increasingly weaker outcomes.
Without memory, people can’t think or behave strategically.
That’s real trouble.
I want to know how people think.
I want to understand them better.
Step 1: Listen carefully to the next person who speaks with you.
Step 2: Focus on the words they use. Listen for four words: “and”, “then”, “so”, and “therefore.”
These are called “conjunctions” or “transitions.” Maybe you learned that at school. They show you how ideas are joined.
If someone uses lots of “and” and “then”, they are listing ideas. They are using the classic structure of the Mad Info Age. They are giving you information.
This is the way we share simple facts.
If they use “so” and “therefore”, they are drawing conclusions. They may have just listed their own facts or just listened to yours.
Knowing which person often draws conclusions is very useful. You can instantly tell they are working at rational thinking.
There is no great sin either way. We change depending on how we feel. And, sometimes, we don’t state our conclusions aloud. But, someone who uses “so” and “therefore” and draws their own conclusions may be less caught up in the Mad Info Age.
“In a world of information, the thinker is king.”
What was that about Top Gun: Maverick?
All that is true, but I have a sudden uncomfortable thought. I am seeing my world through my eyes. Others see it differently. Is this just a matter of opinion, or is there more?
I can’t write another word. Agitated, I have to stand. I need to pace out the problem.
Forgive me, will you? I’m a bit like that.
But, this time, I do something different. I deliberately slow my pace. Slow it down. Slow it down. SLOW. This is too important. Slow down. Thinking in a blast gets me nowhere fast.
I ask myself a question: “If I don’t like info mode, does that mean everyone feels that way?”
“But, a flood of facts is a bad thing.”
Well, so is a deluge of thinking, or of emotions, or of crazy activities.
Anything unbalanced is bad. Don’t you see?
I ponder a moment, without real answers. “So, this is bigger than Top Gun: Maverick?”
Yes. Bigger!. It’s more than a simple opinion. Any fool can have an opinion. Most of them do. An opinion is often a conclusion teetering on a couple of thin, supportive facts that are amplified by emotion.
But, can’t you see? It’s a sequence. It’s a processing pattern. We gather, digest, and react. We’re doing it all the time. Over and over.
I have a sip of water. Remember the lecture. Think about what you saw. What you learned.