What ever happened to nuances?

December 28, 2014

nuancesWhat ever happened to nuances? 

Those shades of meaning, sometimes subtle, that lead an audience to a point?

They’re gone.


Mostly disappeared without a trace.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  They’re still there. But no one pays attention. Not any more.

People don’t respond to nuances any more and I wonder if it’s because we are inundated with so much information we no longer read critically and think deeply.

I see it in the broad-brush with which people respond to news.

It’s obvious in how current events are covered.

How people respond to social media posts.

And I even see it in how people respond to some of my blog posts.

They take one tiny episode, event or sentence and that’s what they react to.  The big picture and major points being made? Ignored.

Nuances no longer count.

And I get it. Everywhere we go we are attacked 24/7 by news of all kinds and way too much horrific news. On our phones, on our tablets, computers, radios, tvs, periodicals.  We can’t possibly take it all in.

We don’t have time to sit and think about the color and hue of each point. The undertones, the tinge, the tint.

So maybe we’ve learned to scan and react rather than think and respond.

See the nuances?

See the nuances?

This is a dangerous turn of events, because most of our news today is opinion-based and the nuances aren’t recognized. Of course, neither is the bias, but that’s another story. Because just saying something is fair and balanced doesn’t make it true. But many people believe it does.

I’m guilty, too, of not recognizing shades of meaning. When I go through a museum, I can be impatient, not stopping to consider all the things the artist meant.  I pick and choose what I look at quickly, much like we pick and choose the information we’re exposed to.

In my rush to read and respond to online writing there are times I fail to consider the bigger picture. And there are even times I go back to make sure that I’ve gotten the point intended by the writer.

Poetry has long depended on nuance. It requires us to read slowly, to sit and let the colors and shades of meaning wash over us.  Look at the list in the purple image. All these words are related, but there a nuances, tiny differences, shades of meaning.

Speaking of words: how many people do you know who sit and read a poem, much less a book of poetry? I know far too few.  And I do it far less often than I used to.  Poetry forces us to take quiet time and consider the heartfelt words. The images. Come to think of it, we need more poetry in our lives because we NEED to step back, sit back, breathe and consider.

Think about our full our brains must be by the time we hit 50. Ok, if you’re a medical researcher you’re going to tell me that brains don’t get full like a jar gets full, but that’s the way it feels to me. We’ve taken in so much information, well, it MUST get full. Or at least tired.  And our central nervous system can’t possible process information at the same speed it did when we were young.

So we simply have to slow down. And, to tell you the truth, a slower and more deliberate life has appeal. That old “stop and smell the roses” thing.

If you’d like to step back, sit back and let nuances come to you, I’ve got a few suggestions:

  • The next time you’re in a museum, resist the urge to move along. Stand there a little longer and really take in the piece you’re looking at. Seek the details that make it special. What’s there? What’s not there?
  • Read some poetry. Yes, you can find lots online, but why not a book? Thank goodness for Maureen Kwiat Meshenberg’s recent book of beautiful poetry because it’s full of color and hue and emotion.
  • Sometimes, we have no choice about slowing down. If you have had a traumatic brain injury, you’re forced to consume information more deliberately because if you miss some details, you’ll miss the point.  You’ve got to retrain your brain.My friend, Ruth Curran, developed a website and a blog with simple brain exercises after her traumatic brain injury.  Her daily Cranium Crunches force me to slow down and notice details in “find the differences” or “what whole is this a piece of” exercises. Click on Cranium Crunches in the previous sentence to visit her blog.


And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

5 comments on “What ever happened to nuances?
  1. I love to read poetry for this very reason. It’s like opening a puzzle and figuring out what all the pieces mean and where they all go. It’s also interesting to hear different perspectives on a particular poem—-we each interpret the poetic lines differently.

  2. Diane says:

    Poetry! Mmmmm . . .
    And you’re right. In my rush to get to the next task, I often gloss over the current one. Tragic. So much is missed. I will make the effort to slow down. Take in more.
    The way I used to . . .

  3. adela says:

    I an effort to keep my two blogs completely G-Rated, I must often resort to nuance. I like your advice. I love poetry. The last whole book of poetry was Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.

  4. Carolann says:

    I remember back in college, I had a poetry class that was very intense and very in-depth. There were poems that didn’t reach me, and in those moments, I had to force myself to reach deep within and force a relationship with them that I just wasn’t feeling. While I agree with you about the nuances, I think it’s human nature to pick and choose what reaches us the most. I think at times we must skim the surface because there is such an overload of media and content out there. It’s almost impossible to keep up with.

  5. I find myself doing this quite a bit. This is definitely the “information age” but I don’t think that’s really a good thing necessarily. There is just to much…of everything. We go to fasta and our attention span is much to short, at least mine is. I have found since my wreck that I miss alot of nuances that I would have picked up easily before.

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