Tag Archives: Communication Studies

Fragments on an Unknown Language: Perplexed on a Sunday Morning

Listening to an unknown language, we are confronted with the limits of our imagination. Understanding nothing at all about a foreign language, yet listening closely, only results in a better understanding of not-knowing. In this case, we must ask questions. It is only through asking questions (learning how to ask the right questions) that we might be able to grow in shifting the limit of non-understanding.

If we are socially competent enough, we may be able to use our imagination to take account of the situation and come to some understanding (again, absolutely limiting) about what is being talked about.

We forget the wonder of being able to understand the language of another when we are always immersed in the language that we understand (that we speak). Thrust into a situation where absolutely nothing makes sense, we come face-to-face with awesome connecting power of language. As it connects, it can utterly disconnect. It is up to you to develop those capacities in yourself that will lead you to understanding it.

So, what is language for? And, how is it that we can understand or grow with another who shares none of our language? Is “real” talk only a function of spoken language? What is it that comes out from behind and through our language that makes us understandable to the other?

James P. Carse: Religious War in Light of the Infinite Game

This is the only online lecture (reflection) I could find for the brilliant author of “Finite and Infinite Games,” retired New York University professor, James P. Carse. In this lecture, Carse talks about religion, war, finite games, infinite games, self-veiling, poeisis, religion and more. This is well worth your time if you are interested in these kinds of things.

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Mindful Absorption: Fluidity and Mindfulness

Carl Rogers talks about “the fluid nature of the self.” But, how does one achieve such an awareness of the fluid nature of the self? Aside from my recent article, I will expand on a few key elements to this most elusive yet ordinary way of living, hopefully, moving us toward a better understanding of “fluidity” and, “mindfulness” in general.

I think it is extremely important to, in moments of great concentration (of a task, a conversation, a lecture, cleaning the sink) allow yourself to be fully drawn into the situation at hand. The catch is that if you find yourself thinking about how you’re being drawn into the situation, the absorption in the task has ceased to be so. It’s like reading a book and suddenly realizing that you are reading a book. In doing so, you’ve temporarily lost the “story.” When you realize that you are reading a book, you cease to be engrossed in the story or the argument and start to think about other things (sometimes even as you eyes continue “reading”). When you are fully engaged in the book, you lose track of time and, at that moment, you are in the realm of the author. So, the first trick is to permit oneself to “let go” of analysis of the situation and permit oneself to be 100% “into” the situation.

But, I want to clarify that “letting go” does NOT mean recklessly doing whatever you want to do regardless of the consequences. No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. It means “letting go” to the situation in such a way that you are “tuning in” to it more clearly and more in accord with what needs doing or what is being presented to you in the situation. Therefore, the teacher becomes a better listener and speaker, the police officer becomes more attentive to crime, the musician becomes better focused on the production of sound and so on. It is a kind of realistic alchemy for daily living.

Whenever you are having a conversation with someone, you are absorbed in something greater than each individual word that you are saying. Becoming more mindful of what you say and how you say it could help you along your path – “letting go” and “tuning in.” In order to have a conversation, you must enter the flow of the words, while attending to the meaning – you do this automatically, for the most part. Learn to become a better speaker through the control and edification of the words that you use with others. It’s like the old Japanese Butoh-fu poem, “Balance chaos and control, like a calm rider on a stampeding horse.”

For now, and for the sake of “blogging brevity”, I would advise that you do as many things as possible and in the doing of those things, do them well. More than “well”, do them to the very best of your ability. Become mindful of your limits and, if need be, work purposely to change those limits so that they are in accord with where you want them to be instead of where they are by “default.”

I work with a seventy-year-old man who has told me on numerous occasions, that he “doesn’t have a future.” A common reaction to that line might be, “Oh, but you DO have a future. You’ll be around a long time. Don’t worry about it.” However, he is always smiling, attentive and jolly. He is smiling because, more important than having a future, he has a present. Each task he does, each conversation he has, has meaning for him NOW. He does what needs to be done and holds to the purpose of the now. Old age has taught him a lesson. Hopefully, when and if I am his age, I, too, will be as engrossed in the moment as he is. Nonetheless, with those of us, who absolutely must plan for upcoming goals or events in our life, the best way to handle them is with the recollection that what you are doing now is leading you somewhere and it is what you are doing now that is of utmost importance to the quality and control of your life. The question is: Is what you are doing now leading you where you most want to go? If not, you may want to re-evaulate the doing part of your life and change what or how you do things. Change what you are doing now and start leading yourself to the imagined destination that you dream of. Getting there will probably be more fun than arriving, anyway.

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20 Mindfulness Exercises for Improving Your Mental Hygiene

1. Become aware of your sitting, your clothes, the temperature and all that is “outside” of you now.

2. Imagine you are not separate from the ground, but a living happening of the world. (from Butoh)

3. Take a walk and open your ears to all of the sounds around you, experiencing them as they are.

4. Listen to the drifting habitual patterns of your own inner voice; let it float by you and around you.

5. Practice the art of stretching, using a book or guide that fits your needs and stretch daily.

6. Thank the objects that you use for their continued help. (from Constructive Living)

7. Practice saying a set amount of “thank you’s” on a daily basis to those around you. (from Constructive Living).

8. Become the face of the others around you that you see and interact with.

9. Clean your surroundings with complete attention to the task-at-hand.

10. Learn an “art” or “craft” like playing music, painting, building, dancing, gardening and so on.

11. Notice the colors that are surrounding you.

12. Meditate on Korzybski’s quotation: “Whatever I say a thing is, it is not.”

13. Allow yourself to completely savor the taste of what you eat and drink.

14. Exercise and become aware of how your body changes. How did it change?

15. Take into account the habitual movements and speech patterns that you use.

16. For one day, listen to others more than you speak to others.

17. For one day, control your use of the word “is.” (from Aleister Crowley)

18. Do a familiar task with your eyes closed, noticing the sensory change (from Constructive Living)

19. Focus on the ways in which “you” are embedded in your surroundings.

20. Fully engage yourself with tasks, people and objects that are meaningful to you.

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The Beast of Fame – E.M. Cioran: An Explication of “Fame: Hopes and Horrors” (Lesson One)

People talk about us and we talk about other people, too. We are, simultaneously, connected and divided by our talk with others. What remains of me after I have a conversation with you is out of my control. Who I become for you is decided by you and through those conversations you have with other people. We arise out of what we do and out of of how we are perceived by self and others. Our name, our own special flavor, slips from our tongues and onto the tongues of others. It is a virus. “Reputation” is that slippery wraith, which we must wrestle with, from which we cannot escape.

E.M. Cioran, from his essay “Fame: Hopes and Horrors,” writes, “Just as each of us, in order to ‘make a name for himself,’ strives to outstrip the others, similarly in the beginning man must have known the vague desire to eclipse the animals, to affirm himself at their expense, to shine at any price (108).” For Cioran, this tendency toward, what could be called “personal branding” or “reputation” is not a recent phenomenon, but is rooted in our very being, in the everydayness of our “minding” of the world. That is to say, this desire toward recognition and reputation, while perpetually settled in front of our eyes as something as natural as falling snowflakes, comes from a suspect source: the Serpent’s kingdom. Nonetheless, us humans like to shine, to be in the “spotlight,” to be seen, to increase our visibility. More than “like,” we crave it.

Cioran continues, “Man alone, in the state of nature, wanted to be important, man alone, among the animals, hated anonymity and did his utmost to escape from it. To put himself forward, such was and such remains his dream. It is difficult to believe he has sacrificed Paradise out of a simple desire to know good and evil; on the other hand, it is easy to imagine him risking everything to be Someone (108).” The shift that occurred from selflessness to selfhood, is something that we cannot know, by virtue of our ability to be knowledgeable about the world and about ourself. But, a faint glimmer of selflessness remains, can flourish if nurtured, can, at times, overcome the Beast of Fame.

To be anonymous in a Web 2.0 world is to not exist, to fall off the map of the social media grid. Take away the technological connections from our life and we are once again in confrontation with the raw presence of ourself and those immediately present to us. Nonetheless, give us a sandbox and we will build profiles, vanity sites, products, commercials, microblogging clients and ten thousand other things. Why? Simply put, to be someone. “Personal branding” involves shifting the focus from the Other to oneself. The network that one chooses to be a part of shapes the image, helps build a sense of self and gives the Other a context from which to form an opinion about someone. Our name itself becomes more than a name, but a brand, a logo, a marketable representation of our greatness, of our strive toward fame.

“When one cannot save one’s soul, one hopes at least to save one’s name (109).” In our everyday experience, the soul seems to flee from us as we engage in various tasks. That elusive thread follows behind us, throws itself in front of us and projects itself onto us, faint and wispy. The name, on the other hand, is ever present, it is who one is to others (and to oneself). Reputation and name are intimately connected, are two sides of the same coin. The character in the old Western film declares, “Mah good name was a slandered.” In Japan, the family name is the first name you give when introducing yourself. The family name is the larger unit from which you came, to which you are still joined: your most precious circle. In American culture, the first name is one’s skeleton key to a world of unabashed self-creation and individualization. The way of the name may differ from culture to culture, but the value of the name does not. The name is conjoined with the human world, the soul sits between this world and another, the place before birth; it arises from the place of pre-birth.

On the “mania of reputation,” Cioran concludes, “If this mania were to seize any animal in its grips, however “retarted” that animal might be, it would press forward and catch up with man (109).” Thus far, no other animal has strived for the kind of otherworldly sense of reputation that us humans possess. We are the kings and queens of the imagined world, of the creation of our self and the responsibility to be someone. So, who are you?

E.M. Cioran – “Fame: Hopes and Horrors” from the book “The Fall Into Time.”

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Voids of Concealed Exposure: Evening Sartoriology

Issey Niwa

Mutants

Our bodies blend in and at the same time seem to stick out. We cover our bodies in layers of buttons, zippers, belts, beads, metals and cloths of all sorts. This strikes me as slightly odd. I can see the function of covering the body for social reasons and to protect the body from the woes of weather, but we have gone further than this. We have really entered into new territory by attaching words, brands and coordinated colors to the surface of our body. For whom? Us humans like to dress-up and down, we are on some level mutable. In fact, transformability is expected. How dare I go to work for one week wearing the exact same clothes? After around day three, especially with the blossoming of spring and its tendency to carry scents, things may start to get a little icky.

Cleaning and Revealing

We clean ourselves with soap, apply lotions, creams, gel for our hair and what not. Most of the time we seem to be hiding the human side of us that we truly are. We want to play the games of social life, it is these games that we are almost compelled to take part in, and let’s face it, they are quite enjoyable. Sometimes, the human side of person is exposed. From a distance the person across the way pulls something out of their nose, looks at it and rolls it up in a tissue. This act of revealing is humbling while, at times, terrifying. It seems hard for us to see other people as they truly are and most of the time, I think we would prefer to keep that distance. Any way of speaking about a person changes the image of that person and shuffle the thoughts around a bit, let them go where they may and see how they might change. We all stir the waters.

Tactile and Phantom Emulation

The clothing that the other wears is not only apprehended visually, but sensually as well. The other comes to us in patterns and angles, voids of concealed exposure or well-crafted made-up faces. We seem to be hovering in some in-between plane of existence, caught up in the images seen and crafted through the tongue, carrying around the words of others and the unspoken bodies of others as well. What I mean is that even the movements of our bodies do not seem to be wholly our own. How easy it is to fall into perfect stride with others while walking in the city. Or, we may study the way a person’s hand is poised at their side only to find some time later that we, without our knowing it, have begun to poise our hand in the same way. How easy it is to rest one’s hand on the table in the same way as the person sitting across from us.

Vortexuality

We are like walking vortexes of pulsating…something…Again, drifting in this in-betweenness, this gray space of crystal clear sociality. There are habits and routines, schedules and things that we do. There is casual conversation and posturing. It is morning and the rain has cleared, although the sky is still wet and the puddles still patch the ground. The birds are perched in perfect formation on top of the building. They don’t move. “Are they crows?” he asks. “I’m not sure.” I reply and this time I look with more intensity craning my head just a bit, just the right amount. “Swallllloooowwwsss.” He slowly states, confident and sincere. We turn around and take a few steps away as others approach.

Digital Tattoo Interface (Wired Blog): Interface Humanities

Thirty minutes ago, I wrote about “media uniforms” and the potential of wearable technology in Japan. Now, I have just discovered a new blog entry by science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling (from Wired magazine‘s blog), linking to a different page (Greener Gadgets competition) regarding: “Digital Tattoo Interface.” The blog is about a bluetooth powered cellphone, which is embedded (unobtrusively) in the wearer’s arm, which also presents a video image of the caller. As is written:

This device communicates wirelessly with the world as well as with other devices implanted in the same body. It is always present, always on, but out of sight and non-obtrusive. It also continually monitors for many blood disorders, alerting the person of a health problem: A human version of the check engine light. Product styling is the latest and coolest downloaded display interface showing on any tattoo on the block. This product is waterproof and it is powered by pizza.

This cybernetic alteration of the body seems to surpass the idea of “media uniforms” and presents one with a direct transformation of the body via technological implantation. The idea of always being “on” presents us with an interesting perspective on being “awake.” The networkization of the human body via wearable, and, in this case implanted interfaces mutates the human body via interface attachments. Moreover, this gives us a different perspective on “the online body” and the metamorphosis of the cybernetic human.

Bruce Sterling/Wired Blog “Digital Tattoo Interface” link: Wired Blog

Digital Tattoo Interface link: DTA by Jim Mielke (USA)Digital Tattoo Interface