Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How are you?

Such a simple question; You ask it, and get the reply, 'Fine', or 'Not bad'. And most of the time, that seems to be enough. There's a peculiarly British dread of asking 'How are you?' and then being told in exact detail how the person is - their moans, their gripes, their various ailments and arguments with their families, friends and enemies. This is because the question has become debased to mean just 'Hello', and the reply - 'Fine thanks', 'Not bad', 'Mustn't grumble', and so forth - a mere acknowledgement of this. I have had many students left perplexed at how a question that carries notions of concern, sympathy, and love within it is regarded in such a cavalier fashion. Turkish people always reply with 'Thank you' to it, and depending on the level of relationship between the person asking and the answerer, leave it there, or go on to develop the conversation. The Poles I have taught tend to ignore its cognate - Jaksiemas? (any Polish speakers, please feel free to correct my spelling of it!) - as it is an invitation to spill all. A simple 'Hello' suffices.
Yet there are times when I want to say 'How are you?', or 'How are you?', or even 'How are you?', and mean it sincerely, and be interested in and sympathetic to the reply. I want to be asked the question in the same way, and be able to sincerely say what is in my heart, whether it be a burden or a joy - to say 'Today is not good, because of this and that and the other', or to look the asker in the eye and tell that person how I feel, how much I love them and what they mean to me, how my day has been lifted by the simple action of being asked such a simple, such a complex and fraught, question.
Such a simple question, yet so hard to articulate truthfully, in its asking and in its reply.
So I ask you: How are you?

edit: drank 1 bottle of red last night.

1 comment:

sattvicwarrior said...

you say!!!!!!!!
"drank 1 bottle of red last night".