Thoughts about Rumors

Thinking further on the subject of clarity and directness between people, I’m trying to wrap my head around „rumors“. And somehow that is harder than I thought.
I said to my colleague the other day that „I hate rumors“ – but the more I think about it, the less I can stand with this very simple sentence.

As, sadly, Terry Pratchett died this week, I was reading a little bit about him again and he is quoted:
“Rumor is information distilled so finely that it can filter through anything. It does not need doors and windows – sometimes it does not need people. It can exist free and wild, running from ear to ear without ever touching lips.” ― Terry Pratchett

Now if this is true, that shouldn’t be so bad. And looking at many of the rumors that I have come across in my life so far, there is some information in a rumor. So why do I get so agitated and find this subject so annoying?

I’ll try to elaborate and come to some sort of conclusion or at least understanding of my own approach to rumors.
Lets start with the thought that rumor is information.
Simple dry information gets interesting, when you add details and emotion in order to make it a real story. Then information turns into a story that’s exciting to tell and listen to.
And story-telling is so nice, which is why people (including myself) indulge in it. I love to hear a good story and I do also love to tell a story in a way that my listeners are engaged, react – laugh or are touched.
You might know the pleasures of a dramatic story – you can’t take your mind off and you feel it. You see all the participants in your mind, you feel yourself walking through that dark, dark forrest or feel the tickling in your belly when you imagine the moment before you kiss someone for the first time…
So I enjoy the story part of a rumor. Listening to a dramatic play.

Another part of a rumor is believing or spreading a story instead of asking questions to the source of information, when something is weird or unlikely. When the rumor becomes the truth and besides being a great story and inspiration for further thinking and exploration of what has happened, it creates a suspicious atmosphere. Then somehow curiosity gets replaced by mistrust, excitement turns into an awkward fear. And this is the part that upsets and annoys me.

For a while, opposing so much this mechanism of rumors, I dismissed them immediately when realizing it was „obviously“ a rumor. When I didn’t have proof, I assumed it was just a suspicion of fearful, bitter people and no one could be that evil-mean-weird in real life if you gave them a chance and didn’t listen to the rumors. And these rumors I guess, are the same to me as a hunch. Something that I feel and can’t really define yet. Something I’ve heard through a friend of a friend who heard it from their aunt…
But just dismissing a rumor, without giving it attention and finding out what the root is (or which part of the story is the information and which is the detail to create emotion) is not a very fruitful way of dealing with it either. And it too is lacking to ask relevant questions or paying attention.

A few years ago my partner at the time and I rented out one of the rooms in our apartment. She was away for a month and we found a guy who said he was looking for a temporary room until he had found something more permanent, as it was difficult to find something in this city (Copenhagen residents might be able to follow the sensation…). A nice coincidence for us and despite the fact that receiving the deposit and communicating was a little bit weird, we were happy to have found someone. Throughout this month I lived with him, sometimes eating together and or just having a chat. I thought he was a bit weird but didn’t want to be too nosy and ask him, what he really is up to. He seemed to be just the most polite person I ever met, and despite the fact that I found his stories about his „girlfriend“ quite weird, it felt like I would be disturbing, suspicious or so, if I asked too much and expressed this.
After he left, we found out that he had used the time when I was at work or out of town for a few days, to show our apartment to other people and „rented“ it out. The day he left and the weekend after seven people showed up and wanted to move into their new room. A few of them were there with a truck filled with their things, had payed a cash deposit of 400€ and were looking forward to start their studies the next Monday… And most probably all his stories have been weird because they were not real.
Now – to me if I just heard this story, even without all the little details it sounds like an urban myth, a rumor and I wouldn’t believe it, if I hadn’t experienced it myself. I would never think that this would really happen. Someone living in the same apartment with me, talking to me having the boldness of lying in my face like that… I did not think someone would actually do this without me noticing.

One of the things I learned from this experience is that I do ask questions if I find something or someone weird. I don’t want to turn into a bitter, suspicious person who doesn’t trust anyone, but I do want to follow my hunch.
Sometimes it’s also not about asking questions even, but being attentive in an experience. Maybe putting extra attention and focus on the subject that feels weird until it is clarified.
That sometimes feels like there is a risk of seeming to be dumb or slow in understanding; it could be taken as an „obvious“ question. Or too detail-focused and anal. Or most of all it shows that I don’t know it all and have the answer anyway. (Not only to others, mostly to myself.)

03RumorsAnd I have been wondering and trying to understand what happened there, why I did not ask more and gain more clarity. It seemed that I preferred to live in the as-if-reality or the possible reality of a rumor or story, that lead to someone getting hurt rather than asking the questions. Why is that? Because the questions might be socially uncomfortable? Because they could be taken as an insult? And maybe also because I could find out that what I was only suspecting is actually true and the person I’m dealing with IS in fact an ass and not just probably…?
Maybe also because when finding out what actually lies behind the rumor, I could find out that my suspicion wasn’t relevant after all and then I might have questioned someone unnecessarily? I have misjudged or misread an act or misinterpreted the information available to me…?

I’ve had another train of thought connect to the community in a rumor… Being united around a feeling that the story transports can make us feel right and supported, I guess.
But even so – the more I think about it, the more I hope for people and myself to ask questions instead. Especially because in these as-if-realities there are so often an evil and a good part. And I don’t want to suspect someone to be evil who isn’t. Or someone to be harmless, who is actually using me.
Somehow I rather be dealing with an uncomfortable reality than with an half-comfortable, half-dramatic possibility. (In case of this guy, the reality was actually a more dramatic story than what I suspected.)

I guess, I will continue to enjoy listening to a dramatic story, be that invented from scratch or on the basis of an every day life experience. But when this story is interfering with something I love, I will want to create clarity instead of staying in the haze of half-half. I want to have a silent mind rather than a cloud of doubts and assumptions.
And I will continue to ask questions when people doubt something they love on the basis of such rumors instead of going to the root of what is going on.

I don’t have a clear point today and I think I will still continue thinking about rumors, loyalty, suspicion and expectations. I find it interesting how difficult it can be to think and write clearly about the subjects that are so interwoven with atmospheres and feelings.
Maybe it is a practice in not knowing exactly. I’m curious, I listen to different people and open up conversations on this topic, in order to learn more. Sometimes it helps me be silent with this, when I relax my diaphragm and belly. When I don’t search for the answer but still have the question:
people, rumors – wtf?

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