Some time ago, I had the misfortune of working outside while someone down the street had Rush Limbaugh blaring from the radio. Why do some people feel the need to broadcast their propaganda to the entire world? Rush was in full throat and carrying on as only he can in his characteristically pompous manner. I could not escape torment, as I had work to perform. Fortunately for me, the radio was at such a distance that I could not make out his words in a literal sense but could only understand the tone and intent.
For a brief while I was a bit like a dog; a dog doesn't understand words in a literal sense. They understand the tone of their person's voice and through practice can learn to respond to particular tones, that we call orders, in a particular way. There are people, known as aphasics, who have suffered damage to their brains that result in the loss of their ability to understand the literal meaning of words. Such persons are able to understand the words of people with whom they are close and so they can function to a limited degree. There's a very interesting chapter in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” by Oliver Sacks entitled “The President's Speech,” that is worth reading for its insights into the affliction.
So, I was briefly aphasic. I could not, at that distance, understand the literal meaning of the words Rush was uttering but could only glean their emotional content; what came across was very clear and very disturbing. What I heard was the sound of a small, sniveling, whining child, leveling against its parents some long suffered and painfully felt grievance. The message was simple but very clear and most obnoxious. While I felt afflicted to some degree, I also felt an odd mixture of shock, and amusement, and to a slight degree sympathy for the plight of the suffering child to whom I was compelled to listen. I kept puzzling, “What could have caused that poor child such injury?”
Unfortunately for me, I could not escape the sound. I completed my task as rapidly as was possible.