WHO’S TALKING?

Counting Voices — A lively group discussion, an intimate tête-à-tête, an inner monologue — in your view, when it comes to a good conversation, what’s the ideal number of people?


First, dear WordPress, I think you are not paying attention to what you are saying. You seem to be distracted lately, especially on the Daily Prompt. This particular mistake is … well … peculiar. Not peculiar “ha ha.” More like peculiar strange and in need of medication.

Dearest friends, an inner monologue is not a conversation because it is a monologue. “Mono” means “one”, so this is “thinking something over” and doesn’t require anyone but the thinker. It is not a conversation. On the other hand, if your conversations involve people that you alone can see or hear … if, perchance, you have many voices in your head and they are having a lively discussion with each other?

And most especially if they are telling you to do evil things involving weaponry of any kind? You have should seek immediate help. No, don’t pick up that gun, bat, scalpel, or knife. Go directly to your local mental health provider and request a comfortable room with a view.

Generally, my best conversations are held with other human beings present. Perhaps I’m missing some fine conversational point of etiquette, but I believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

One good conversationalist is usually enough for me and in my humble opinion, are always the best. Regardless, for real conversation, the train stops at four. People, not voices. After that, no one will get to finish a thought. You may have a great party, but it won’t be a conversation … though you can have pretty good arguments with a lot of people and sometimes, you can work each other up and turn it into a riot. Still, not a conversation.

Optimum? Two. Next best? Three.

Me with me? Or me with a lot of mes? Take some sleepy-time drugs. Go to bed. If it persists? Call someone in the morning.

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE – DAILY PROMPT WAS DOWN. AGAIN.

Today’s Daily Post in a Nutshell: Locked and Sealed, is locked and sealed. And — how ironic — was hit with the old “where did it go” bug. But, it’s back up. Sing hallelujah. Till the next time.


Can you keep a secret?

Yes.

Have you ever — intentionally or not — spilled the beans when you should have stayed mum?

Not that I can recall.

Note: Your secret is probably safe with me because I will forget it almost as soon as you tell me.


Well, I’m glad that’s out of the way because I wanted to talk about communicating on the Internet and how ridiculously easy it is to misunderstand each other.

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE, BOSS

This is the big problem with electronic communication. I suppose it’s a problem with any communication that isn’t face-to-face. People probably misunderstood each other’s handwritten letters too.

:-D I believe the :-) was invented entirely to convey that what you wrote was not meant negatively :-(

I use emoticons liberally, though they are considered bad English (they aren’t English) and childish. Children are good at conveying feelings, so I’m not averse to being childish if it improves communications a little.

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I tend to be brusque. Short. I try to be witty, but it doesn’t always come across that way. My attempts to be “cute” can easily be misread as snide, snippy, and dismissive. So:

1) If I’m being snide, snippy, or dismissive, you’ll know it. I’m not that subtle. Really.

2) My wrists hurt. My typing is getting worse. Of the emerging issues caused by pain in wrists, the most malignant are missing words. Not misspelled or otherwise mangled. Words that aren’t there at all. Particularly unfortunate when the missing word is “not” — exactly reversing the meaning of a thought yet appearing grammatical.

SOLUTIONS?

Lacking fonts that clearly express sarcasm or irony — both of which are better expressed by tone of voice, body language, and facial expression — maybe we (me) should consider alternate forms. This is difficult since I have always tended to be sarcastic. (I used to be worse, but I’m in recovery.) That kind of wit (?) doesn’t translate well in text. Not yet, anyhow and until it does, I’m considering humor less likely to be misread.

The second solution isn’t a solution, but might help. Before you decide you’ve been insulted, dismissed, treated with scorn, etc., check with the comment’s originator. Make sure what you know is what was meant. That it wasn’t a complex typo, or a failed joke.

PARANOIA

It’s easy to read everything as a form of criticism. I’ve seen people slide into this by degrees until they successfully misinterpret everything. You need some toughness to live in the virtual world. You also need patience, in the sense of not jumping to conclusions. Finally, you have to remember you are not the center of everyone’s world.

One of my many problems with the whiners, complainers, oh woe is me-ers is they have sunk so deep into their own “issues,” they forget other people have lives. People can be brusque — dismissive — and it hasn’t got anything to do with you. They are responding to something going on in their world to which you are not privy.

Usually, you will never know what is or was going on unless they choose to tell you. Because many of us like to keep our private things private. I deal with intimate issues intimately, face-to-face. Or telephone-to-telephone. Not on my blog.

PRIVACY IS A GOOD THING

Which brings me to the final point.

Bloggers can easily contact each other privately. If you have a bone to pick with someone — or think you do — try email. Directly. To the individual. Even if your position is righteous and your cause is just, public isn’t the best place to resolve a dispute.

Why not? Because it invites strangers to jump in — which won’t help anyone fix anything. Because once you’ve publicly insulted someone or hurt their feelings, they may be disinclined to forgive you. Ever.

And finally, because squabbling about personal stuff online is tacky. Totally teenage, very Facebook, and not classy at all.

SORRY ABOUT YOUR MESS

I don’t follow your blog anymore. You, over there. Yes, you. Don’t look surprised. I warned you.

I used to follow you, read everything you wrote. You made me smile, made me think. But then you went into “pity poor me” mode and lost me.

I feel I should explain the problem I have with your posts. It’s not personal. I’m just not a fan of “spilling your guts on the Internet as therapy.” I don’t believe we solve problems by inviting strangers to take part in our personal lives. After all, our readers only know what we tell them. Whatever support they offer is entirely one-sided.

This is not therapy. You’re trolling for support from people who have only half a story. You may get affirmation and agreement that way, but what does it mean? It’s more about your skill as a writer than your trials and tribulations. Or the validity of your feelings, your position, your life.

As for relationships, if you have an issue with someone and want to confront them? Confront them directly. Don’t ambush them by Internet.

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I have plenty of problems. I don’t need more drama in my life. A steady diet of your drama will drive me away, guaranteed. But hey, it’s your life, your blog. As someone recently put it, “not my circus, not my monkeys.”

You should also consider the longevity of what you say. Once you put it out there, it’s out there forever. You may change your mind, but anything you publish is forever in cyberspace, waiting to bite you in the ass.

Anyone and everyone can read everything you ever publish. Whether on Facebook or a blog, it never goes away. It never changes. You cannot delete or edit it. There’s no time limit. Readers may eventually include prospective bosses. Your government. Friends and lovers. Publishers. College admissions officers. The cops. Teachers. Students. Neighbors. Customers. Bank and loan officers. Potential business clients. Your husband or wife’s divorce attorney. All they have to do is Google you to find everything. Why hand them a loaded gun? Whatever you say today can and will be held against you tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Dumping your most intimate feelings and issues on the Internet where the entire world — literally — can stick their oar in your waters? What could go possibly go wrong with that?  

If you invite the immediate world to comment on your personal life, you have no right to complain if they are unsympathetic — even if they tell you you’re an asshole. Maybe you are an asshole. We all are, sometimes.

Finally, while you may find your tumultuous emotional life endlessly fascinating, the rest of us may not be as interested. I don’t find my emotional life that interesting. Regardless, you’ll find plenty of emotional bottom feeders to affirm your feelings, whatever they are. They’ll gladly keep your anger at the boil, your pot of misery stirred. You think they are your friends, but they are not. They are voyeurs, getting their kicks from your suffering.

Not me, though. I’ll slip away because (1) your problems are not mine, and (2) I blog for fun and your drama isn’t my idea of fun.

You have every right to use your blog as a psycho-therapeutic tool. You are free to publish an unending stream of tormented personal posts. I hope it works out for you.

HOW ABOUT WILLFUL IGNORANCE? THAT’S A GOOD ONE!

The Eighth Sin – Remember the seven cardinal sins? You’re given the serious task of adding a new one to the list — another trait or behavior you find particularly unacceptable, for whatever reason. What’s sin #8 for you? Why?


I did a little quick, shallow research on those original 7 big ones. They are, for those of you who were not raised as Christians or have totally forgotten whatever you learned:

Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride.

Seven Deadly Sins, Peter Bruegal

Seven Deadly Sins, Peter Bruegal

I’m not convinced adding another sin matters. Anything I add would no doubt be a subset one of the Cardinal Seven. But hey, I’ll give it a shot.

The original sins are more than words. They are concepts. Starting from the top, we find Lust. It isn’t just having indiscriminate sex or doing it with people to whom you aren’t married. Lust is not just for horny teenagers and men in a midlife crisis.

Lust is an intense desire. It is a general term for desire. Therefore lust could involve the intense desire of money, food, fame, power or sex. In Dante’s Purgatorio, the penitent walks within flames to purge himself of lustful thoughts and feelings. 

On this earthly plane, there’s a lot of lusting going on and sex is the least of it. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say sex is the best of it. Possibly the only piece of the “lust sinology” that’s fun and might do somebody some good.

So how about Gluttony, eh? If you think it means you eat too much, you’d be right, though eating is a minor detail.

Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony (Latin, gula) is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. Gluttony can be interpreted as selfishness; essentially placing concern with one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.

As far as I can tell, our whole society has been doing a lot of gulping … of natural resources, of fancy cars, houses, gadgets, widgets. We also eat too much, but in the overall scheme of things, it hardly matters.

Moving along, we get to a perennial favorite: Greed. You can’t go wrong with greed. For thousands of years, greed has been on the “most popular sin” list for most people. It’s probably the single most motivating of the sins having lost its evil connotations and been enshrined as something wonderful to which one ought aspire.

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions. Scavenging, hoarding materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are actions likely inspired by Greed.

According to Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good.” So not to worry.

Sloth is always charming. It hardly seems worthy of mention in such impressive company.

Sloth (Latin, acedia) can entail different vices. While sloth is sometimes defined as physical laziness, spiritual laziness is emphasized. Failing to develop spiritually is key to becoming guilty of sloth. In the Christian faith, sloth rejects grace and God. Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do. By this definition, evil exists when good men fail to act.

Wrath is a big deal, the cause for much of what ails America these days.

Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as “rage”, may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries. Wrath can persist long after the person who committed a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or suicide. 

We seem to be in the middle of an epidemic of wrath in the U.S. Politically and socially, we are an angry, hate-filled people. Scary stuff.

Ah Envy! The motivator of crime, the inciter of ambition.

Like greed and lust, Envy (Latin, invidia) is insatiable desire, is similar to jealousy in that they both feel discontent towards someone’s traits, status, abilities, or rewards. The difference is the envious also desire the entity and covet it. Envy can be directly related to the Ten Commandments, specifically, “Neither shall you desire… anything that belongs to your neighbor.” 

Pride is the downfall of smart people. If there’s a sin to which I am committed, it’s pride. It pops up in so many ways. Believing one is smarter than everyone else, that one is really in control of ones fate (yeah, right!). It is the sweetest of sins, the most comfortable sin, the most beloved of the educated and smart set. My personal favorite.

If it turns out a Judeo-Christian God is truly in charge, this sin will guarantee I never make it to heaven.

In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). 

So what could I add to this prestigious list?

Allow me to offer Willful Ignorance, a determined blindness to facts, reality, and knowledge. Willful Ignorance comfortably joins with other popular sins to make up “our body politic.”

You’re welcome. I’m glad to be able to contribute to our cultural demise.

A HUNDRED YEARS OF WAR

Today, August 4th, 2014 is the centennial of the first day of battle of World War One.

Although war had been declared a week earlier (28 July 1914), the 4th of August was the day on which troops clashed and men died. Millions more would die before the war ground to a halt four years later.

It was not only the start of The Great War. It was the end of the Old Regime in Europe, of a way of life. The beginning of a modern era of endless war in which more than 50 million people have died on battlefields, in death camps, of starvation, and disease. And of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rupert Chawner Brooke was born 3 August 1887 and died 23 April 1915. He was an English poet known for his sonnets — mostly written during the First World War, in particular “The Soldier”, which follows. He was well-known for his good looks, which were said to have prompted William Butler Yeats to describe him as “the handsomest young man in England.” He died before his good-looks had time to fade.


1914 V: The Soldier

by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke never came back from the war. He was one of an entire generation of men who died in that war. The male population had barely begun to return to normal when War II began. The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 37 million. It  included tens of thousands of Americans, and millions of English, Australian, Canadians, French, German, Belgian, Austrian, Russians and many others.

Civilian casualties out-numbered military casualties.

We are marking the hundredth birthday of “the war to end all wars.” It was merely the opening salvo of a century of endless war which still continues. Maybe some day it will be over. I hope I live to see it.

As for what lesson we learned from this war? A war that achieved nothing except slaughter and destruction? We learned nothing.

ETIQUETTE ACCORDING TO SERENDIPITY

Time, once again, to review Serendipity’s version of etiquette:

  1. I have extremely limited tolerance for bullshit. When you make a statement of fact, you’d better have something more than your opinion with which to back it up.
  2. Trolls are out of here and I mean instantly, without reprieve. If you want to start trouble, you’re on the wrong blog.
  3. No personal attacks. On anyone. Period. None. Not the President, not me, not anyone who writes or comments here. If that’s your “thing,” find another place.
  4. Publicize your blog elsewhere. This space belongs to Serendipity. Anyone interested in visiting your site can do so by clicking your blog address next to your comment. If you don’t include an address because you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s your problem. Stand up and be counted or shut up about it.
  5. If you aggravate me, you’ll be gone. It IS personal. This is my happy place. If it stops being fun and you are responsible for making the fun go away, I will make you go away.

Age has privileges. We oldies have passed the point of tolerating fools. What’s more, I have earned the right to run Serendipity according to my rules.

There are folks who comment regularly, who read this blog and whose stuff I, in turn, read. They can get away with a lot because they are friends and I trust them. Cutting slack for friends is my choice. But don’t pop in here out of nowhere and act like I owe you a hearing. I don’t.

ALL THE ANSWERS YOU’LL EVER NEED

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means. Why bad stuff happens. Whether or not a malevolent deity has it in for us. It’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. To accept the total randomness of events is rough.

Like you, I’ve put a good bit of thought into how come my life keeps falling apart. I know I’m not perfect, but come on! It’s not like I ripped off everyone’s retirement money or slaughtered thousands of people because I think they are ethnically inferior. Whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.

I was pondering this stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I studied it in college and kept exploring it through the decades since. One day, I woke up and realized I knew the Truth. All had been revealed.

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I Don’t Know Anything. Neither Do You.

Suddenly random happenstance is as meaningful as anything else. What a relief to realize I don’t need an explanation. Stuff happens. I spent years — decades — thinking in circles, but now I am perfectly content displaying my lack of knowledge for all the world to see (and admire).

Just like when I was 12. I’ve been considering founding a church. I could enlist a lot of followers. My church  would require no beliefs. It would need no contributions of time or money. It wouldn’t even require that you show up, unless you happened to feel like it. There would be no rules to follow, no standards to live up to. No angry deity to get pissed off if you behave badly. It would ideally suit the modern lifestyle, don’t you think?

Faith and Proof

Faith is not proof. Faith is opinion in fancy clothing.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith believing in God or declaring yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no proof and for which you can never have proof.

If believing in a loving God makes your world feel rational, that’s good. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the path to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re  making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

As for me, I don’t know. Really. I don’t know and what makes me smarter than you is I know I don’t know.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Tempus Fugit is a frog.

Accepting that one knows nothing is a big step, so the next issue to tackle is how can you can cash in on your new understanding. What’s the point in knowing the meaning of life unless you can awe people with your brilliance?

No one will be dazzled unless you know the right words. Terminology is important.

Big words (4 or more syllables) when used in an appropriate setting, can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds indicating their admiration.

Employing big words enhances your likelihood of getting a management position.

You can write important books.Have a blog like me. Big words can take you a long way if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

Epistemology

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything. Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, concepts, and appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical. (Remember infinite sets from college math? It’s like that.)

Phenomenology

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. Except the same reasoning can prove there is no God. This is the joy of phenomenology.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.

In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

Becoming a Fount of Wisdom

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

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There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself making it hard to dispute. Not to worry. The only one who is ever fully convinced by faith is the one who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it.

Having more believers or followers doesn’t transform faith into fact.

If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things. Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists. Cool.

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve clarified everything. If not, feel free to have your people call my people. We’ll talk.