Courtesy of www.ReneMagritte.org
Almudena’s piercing tone brought George back from the flash of his inner recollections.
“George, hey, George. With this cultural mirror bias idea, are you telling me that working with others here is all a question of nationality?
“No, uh no, um no” mumbled George, pulling himself together to try to re-join the conversation he had momentarily drifted away from. “I’m sorry if I have given that impression.”
Almudena smiled, waiting for George to reconnect with her.
“What I mean to say is that working in the ERA has made me think a lot about miscommunication. Nationality is a contributing factor but it’s not the only thing.” George was straining to find words to express himself. “It seems to me it’s something deeper. About what else goes on in our minds and bodies when we speak a language.”
Though George sensed, at last, he had got through, he couldn’t help feeling inside a little embarrassed, once again, for going off into one of his philosophical reflections, which so often made him sound either half barmy, or, worse still, managed to bore people so much they simply switched subjects as soon as they could.
He had tried to put his ideas over positively, by talking about Maxwell, who had been a popular member of the department before he retired in 2015. But then, in a flash, the thought came back to him of when he had first been struck by the idea that our own self-image is shaped, at least in part, by what we see in others.
Nicholas Haversham, his retired British colleague, had come to mind. While George tried always to see the good in everyone and had to recognise to himself that Haversham was a ‘very good talker’, he realised one day how big the discrepancy was between what he saw in front of him, in his own soul mirror, as it were, and what George’s colleagues saw in Haversham.
Photo by Enrique Cropper
“In a multi-cultural organisation like the ERA”, spouted George at the first Christmas drinks party he had been to in over three years, following the COVID hiatus, “we all need to work that much harder to maintain good relations amongst ourselves…”
Almudena, George’s long-standing colleague from the analysis department, a sharp, dark-eyed brightly dressed woman from Cordoba, in Spain, was listening intently.
“But what you’re saying, Almudena, just goes to show that by far the trickiest relations for us to hold together are those we have with others of our own nationality!”
The subject of miscommunication between colleagues had come up again, as it so often did in the ERA. Almudena had been sharing with George her impressions from a quarrel she had witnessed on-line. It was a dispute between two French directors, Rabot and Lautrec, following what she had described, using that popular ERA euphemism, as a ‘misunderstanding over some fine detail of fiscal policy’.
Friday 27 January at 7:30 p.m.
Writingbrussels is back with more stories.
We will be hosted by the General Consulate of Slovakia, 195 avenue Molière (Ixelles). Free entrance.
(Link to the songs: Narcisse, Frère de combat, À presser le pas)
Image: Phobos from a mosaic in Halicarnassus, 4th century AD (@Theoi.com)
The dedicated doctors and nurses attending George in the intensive care unit of Ottignies hospital that spring of 2021 had become extremely concerned for his life. Patricia had been kept fully informed of the implications of a “pronostique très grave” and of the necessity to keep him in an induced coma, now in its 19th day.