Unless you have chosen to take a complete digital cleanse the past few days, you are most likely aware of the "Laurel vs. Yanny" craze that has swept across billions of screens faster than you can say Laurel … or yanny for that matter.
The recording, which turns out to be a clip from a vocabulary website, has created quite an uproar. Many listeners hear the word “laurel,” while others hear “yanny,” and some special few are able to hear both simultaneously. According to the New York Times, the recording is intended to say “laurel”and serve as the audio sample for that entry on the vocab site, but on account of an as yet unexplained frequency fluke, many hear “yanny,” a word quite different from what the original recorder intended.
The original twitter postnow has over 25 million views as people are astounded by the phenomenon of one word simultaneously saying very different things to various listeners. As fascinating as the laurel/yanny divide is, it might be suggested that this type of respective hearing or interpreting is not only extremely common today, but it is also the perfect meme and learning opportunity for the moment in which we find ourselves.
It seems that every day in America we are presented with events or issues that are understood and regarded very differently by different people. Often the differences of interpretation are extraordinarily variant, and it seems almost impossible that we with such variant takes could be talking about the very same thing.
We are incredulous when others take the same set of ‘facts’ and derive such alternate conclusions. Isn’t it obvious that these particular events require this particular response? How is it possible that you could see it so differently from me? Are you blind? Are you crazy? Are you intentionally altering the circumstances so that you can pursue your twisted agenda?
And then along comes “Laurel vs. Yanny,” right in the middle of this crisis of national polarization, and it screams ‘guess what folks, our minds see, hear, and interpret things differently!’
What an amazing message for us to consider at this moment.
Imagine if those of us who hear Laurel were to demonize the “Yanny” folks the way so many on this side of the aisle are daily decrying and dehumanizing those on the other: There’s something wrong with those yanny people! Their brains are defective. It’s not just that their frequency is screwed up, but they are morally bankrupt; they’re a danger to us all!
Of course we’re all too smart for that. There’s no harm in hearing this word differently. There are no political ramifications or social implications. We can just laugh at this and then move on to the more important issues that are really tearing us apart.
But before we do, let’s just take a moment to consider whether there might be some small lesson we can take from this latest internet craze. Whether it’s a matter of brain chemistry, background, upbringing, and a host of other variables and factors, the reality is that in spite of all we have in common, we all experience things differently. The best and most productive response to these differences is to try to understand them, to learn from them, and to find a balance between them that considers and elevates them all.