Life is a conversation.
Among other things, life is a conversation. The boundary of your community is the limit beyond which you have no conversation, no connection. We want to feel connected. That’s connectedness.
When my father was born, about 125 years ago, an average American was connected to his/her local farming community or neighborhood. Something closer than a day’s ride on a horse. When I was born, before WWII, we were connected within our city, county, or state, receiving news by radio and conversing by telephone. We rarely conversed by long distance telephone because a call might cost $4, a day’s wage for labor.
Four generations later we are connected to the entire world, but it seems we have less connectedness than in my father’s time. We receive images by TV; we receive advertising and order products from foreign places. We find our local stores stocked with clothing, manufactured goods and food bearing foreign labels. We talk instantly with anyone in the world by internet, email, or cheap telephone. Interacting with each other by this web of electronic communication and commerce, we live as part of a world-wide complex system in which causes and effects seem separated, and politicians appeal to base beliefs in part because reason seems irrelevant and unreasonable.
So what’s missing?
People of all persuasions sense an unease, feel that some unidentified thing is wrong, with no clear route to fix it-except that the “wrong” thing seems associated with people in power who are not connected with us. Kids don’t play in the neighborhood after school. Parents are driven to spend hours driving kids to scheduled activities, but grandparents and family are dispersed to elsewhere. Are we losing connections despite all this instant, intrusive, confusing communication, or are we losing connectedness because of it? We’re saturated with too much information, too little truth.
The newspaper used to be our reliable source of what’s happening and why, from wars to Watergate. The Christian Science Monitor, an old, reliable newspaper known for its in-depth reporting, cut back to a weekly, less-relevant magazine. The Monitor said:
“As daily local newspapers cut back, disappear, or morph into lean websites, the reduction of watchdog reporting and the flow of local information is causing a drop in civic participation. … Spending on reporting and editing at American newspapers dropped $1.6 billion per year from 2006 to 2009 – a 25 percent decrease in three years. And newspaper ad revenue fell 48 percent between 2005 and 2010.” ** Are we missing the questions and answers formerly found in newspapers?
“An unexamined life is not worth living.” (Plato, attributed to Socrates, c. 400 BCE) Perhaps an unexamined idea is not worth having either, let alone promoting. But we are bombarded with unexamined ideas. The art of today’s politics-leading to power if not leadership-is the ability to stir emotion without saying anything that will be examined. That’s one thing that is wrong. It’s a starting point. Yes, we need the watchdog reporting and questioning that was the domain of newspapers, newspapers that are now shriveled due to the flight of attention and advertising to infotainment, spam, internet pop-ups, and robotic phone calls. If you are busy defending yourself from this deluge of nonsense, you will probably not take the time either to question or to find truth. If nobody is listening, where can you be questioning? If you can’t question, then you can’t converse about it, and you feel powerless. That’s a recurring theme in these posts.
So go ask questions. Of yourself and everyone else. Cease giving answers for a while. Create your connectedness. You may find that’s powerful. But remember Socrates. Avoid forcing answers from those who control the hemlock.
** Christian Science Monitor Nov. 12, 2012 pp. 27-28, data cited from Federal Communications Commission/Newspaper Association of America Network.
Communication doesn’t necessarily create connectedness. We may gather information through electronic communications, which may give us the illusion of being connected, but our emotional systems, specifically the bonding emotional system, require presence and contact (see Jaak Panksepp’s ‘Affective Neuroscience”). Why can we talk to someone in the back seat of our car and drive perfectly well yet appear drunk when we talk on a cell phone. We subconsciously understand the nonverbal cues of the person in the back seat while we consciously try to understand the person on the cell phone, leaving little thought process available to drive (subconsciously for the most part). To work together most efficiently we need to have connectedness, bonding, with those with whom we work.
You’ve made a good point, Bob. We can be bombarded with communication coming in, most of which demands response going out whether or not we elect to respond. But none of the electronic communication generates the connections necessary for meaningful life. Perhaps too much communication without connection generates a disaffected society because it violates our internal, biological rules about connecting with the group.