I used to hate driving in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Do I take 35E, 35W? Well I want to go east so I guess I’ll take East. What? They don’t go East and West? Ok, then I’ll take 494 East, and yes I understand I have to take 494 South to get there. Wait, there are two 494 souths and only one will take my East? Ok, well that sounds confusing, so I’ll just take 694. It’s the same thing only there are two 694 norths? Ugh! I’m lost.
After living here for a couple years now, the names don’t bother me at all. I have figured out the differences, and now I know the freeway system as well as a local who has grown up here. And I got to tell you, my pride shows itself when giving directions to visitors. They’re frustrated, confused and pulling their hair out while I’m cool as a cucumber, mapping out their route like I am a human GPS. Why does this freeway system have to be so confusing? The reason is because the names are jargon. They make perfect sense to me now that I know how the entire system operates, but the names themselves don’t uncover the entire truth about their design and destination that would be useful for a newbie twin cities area driver. So yeah, it’s VERY confusing, and confusion breeds frustration because people want the truth about things, and they want it now and in simple terms so they can understand it. Sorry Minnnesota Dept. of Transportation, but your jargon doesn’t reflect reality, so don’t get mad when we direct our frustration toward you.
MNDOT isn’t the only organization that uses its own jargon. Every company and even industry has their own jargon, and that is good. To those who understand it, jargon expedites operation. It makes people quicker, more efficient and productive. If an American WWII military leader had to explain all the jargon and abbreviations used every time he used them, a lot of time would be wasted on education. “Krauts in the open, fire for effect,” doesn’t have much meaning to the modern person, but to an artillery team it told them what to do. Jargon is useful to people who know what it means. But in some industries jargon has lost its meaning, people just don’t know what is meant by the words used. This growing problem of communication is increasingly impacting organizational behavior along with the art and science of human resources.
Human resources, indicated by its very name, deals with human beings. Despite what some people may think, there actually was much study done on these creatures before Sigmund Freud began his method of psychoanalysis. The early scientist/philosophers – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle – all made great hay over human actions. Paul of Tarsus began the study of the interior conflict of human nature in his letter destined for Rome. Augustine of Hippo, less than 400 years later, expanded Paul’s short meditation into a much longer autobiography titled Confession. In it, he plunges into the depths of the human psyche by being honest about his own. 800 years after him a man from Aquino, Italy wrote the most extensive, persuasive and brilliant piece of argumentation the world has ever seen. Amid all the spilled ink, he analyzes the complex moral act of human beings, moral psychology and confirms Aristotle’s work on natural philosophy which was written 1500 years before Thomas of Aquino was even born.
Today many writers from a variety of ideologies maintain the legitimacy and brilliance of each of these writers’ works, even though they lived in much different times and were privy to much less information. But what can an industry like human resources take away from this historical study? My answer is that human nature is timeless even though the words we ascribe to our mode of operation change. We use simple jargon like “she is a good person” or “great leaders are eccentric, brilliant, meek and humble”. But what are these words? Aren’t they a lot like the numbering system on the Minneapolis/St Paul freeway systems? They say something about where we’re going, but they don’t tell us the entire picture. The don’t reflect the clarity of truth which lies in wait to be culled out by more precise terminology and language. What is humility, eccentricity, brilliance and meekness? Should we ascribe preconceived notions as to the definition of these things, or should we find out exactly what is meant by these words? I vote for the latter.
While I may be writing to myself here, I am convinced that jargon is growing increasingly discordant with the reality of human beings. I think it may be time to rediscover the relationship between terms of jargon and the human truth which continues to exist. And it continues to exist because, as we’ve seen from the 2400 history of philosophical inquiry, from Socrates to present-day philosophers like John Finnis, Martin Rhonheimer and Stephen Long, human nature, as it were and is, is timeless. Hence the title for this blog, timeless jargon.
JT brought sexy back; we’re bringing reality back. (I’m still working on a theme song). As this blog marches on, we will give more clarity to what perfection really is, what happiness is, the role of the small business, the role of the employee, and how it all fits within the goal of each individual person not only affiliated with the particular organization, but indeed each and every living person in the world. We are a new generation with high hopes, a healthy ambition that is directed toward the “common good” (as ethicists call it), and a universal scope. There is a lot of work to be done. This is the starting point.