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The Tiny Capital

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Breaking from NaNoWriMo for four minutes because, well, you’ll see

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Eirik Evjen Photography via 1001 Scribbles

Written by kirkistan

November 15, 2015 at 8:55 am

Don’t be a Golf Dinosaur, Like Chris

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Chris is the Dinosaur

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Via Creativity-Online

Written by kirkistan

June 30, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Advertising

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Counterintuitive: Listening Beats Talking?

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Persuader Vs. The Persuaded

ReflectingMasoleum-2-06082015

The Russian polymath Mikhail Bakhtin—one of the titanic minds of the twentieth century, though too neglected now—believed that in a dialogue the position of primacy is with the person who listens rather than the one who first speaks. After all, he said, we do not speak unless we anticipate a response; and we shape what we say in light of possible reactions.

–Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (NY: Oxford University Press, 2011) 55

Without some listener—you see—there would be no words launched.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 8, 2015 at 9:12 am

Praise an Adult: “You’re a good eater and sleeper.”

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And that’s saying something.

According to Mrs. Kirkistan, these are two of my (many?) positive traits:

You’re a good sleeper and a good eater.

She is right: I am. Both.

That’s the kind of stuff we say about an infant, in which case it is high praise indeed: getting that little human to sleep and eat bodes well for future growth. It’s some of the first stuff we can say with any authority about a newborn.

But we struggle to praise an adult.

If we look at those same qualities on the other end of the lifespan, “good sleeper” remains a positive. Older folks have a hard time sleeping (it turns out all sorts and ages of people have a hard time sleeping). What constitutes a “good eater” changes through the years as well. Moving from a voracious eater to a judicious eater seems an especially praiseworthy approach that can span the years.

Still, how can we offer praise to one another in a meaningful way? The trophy for “just showing up” is nearly worthless and most of us see through that. But acknowledging the contributions we each make goes a huge way toward helping each other find and lay hold of our better meaning-making activities.GreatBlur-05202015

Yesterday my client drew a red star next to a paragraph he liked. It’s a small thing, but in conversation I told him it was meaningful that he did that. Our best work, it seems, goes by mostly unremarked. That’s how we know it is good—no one says anything. This is in contrast to when we are kids and our parents praise us for picking up our toys or finishing our Brussel sprouts. Even in school we look for praise from teachers and professors to know that we are doing the right thing/on the right track. But most of life doesn’t work that way.

Giving feedback can help us close the circuit for each other. Even if barely acknowledged, a complement does a whole lotta good.

But it better be true. Otherwise it’s just pandering.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Decentered. As in “not the crux of all things.”

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A place for everything and everything in its place

I’ve put a recurring early-morning block on my calendar titled “Decenter.” The block or early morning quiet and focus has actually been on my calendar for decades, but I’ve recently retitled it based on a cue from Merold Westphal, a philosopher who teaches at Fordham University.

Westphal, writing in The Phenomenology of Prayer (NY: Fordham University Press, 2005), introduces prayer as a “decentering” activity. As a conversation, prayer takes me out of the center of my universe. Like the prayers of the old poet-king or the prayers of the inveterate letter-writer, these are conversations that recognize some other as the center of everything. Those two saw God as the center—I’m with them on that.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

Of course, “de-centering” is not the way we could describe many of the prayers we pray. We send up endless lists to some imagined order-taking god, with caveats about when (“Now works for me. How about now?”) and where and how. And especially how much. But listen to Westphal:

…prayer is a deep, quite possibly the deepest decentering of the self, deep enough to begin dismantling or, if you like, deconstructing that burning preoccupation with myself. (Prayer as the Posture of the Decentered Self, 18)

Again and again I find myself at the center of all existence. Maybe you do too. We’re sorta set up for that, given eyes and ears that operate from a central pivot, constantly swiveling about to take in all we possibly can.

It seems natural enough to think everything revolves around us.

The truth is we need help to back away from this “burning preoccupation.”

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

NOLA: Same words. Entirely different experiences.

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Your Interpretation May Vary

Maybe you’ve seen a version of these New Orleans tourism spots. What is remarkable is how the same voiceover is used in all, but each depicts an entirely different experience. Tim Nudd has some smart comments on the three at Adfreak.

I watch these and cannot help but think about how we interpret any text, And how each understanding of a text is different because of the intentions we bring to a text and the experience/baggage we also bring to our reading. That’s why we talk through how we read things—your interpretation gives a fuller perspective to mine. And, I hope, vice versa.

These three ads tell that interpretation story well.

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Via Adfreak

Written by kirkistan

May 14, 2015 at 8:48 am

The Case for Desire

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Hint: your smartphone is symptom not cause

Advertisers bank on it. Ascetics deny it. Libertines fan it while most of us try to tame it. Desire always drives behavior. The question is training ourselves to desire the best things, which are often not the immediate things. Habit can work for or against us in training desire. But it is desire—that glowing reactor in my mind/heart/instinct—that pushes me toward some object that has just now become irresistible.

Beautiful things can grow from years of tending

Beautiful things can grow from years of tending

But when desire fails—what then? That sounds perfect, right? Always in control.

Not so much: In talking with my depressed friend, desire seems suppressed and/or forgotten and nothing matters. Nothing is interesting. Tiredness, life-weariness, stress, maybe age—all of these seem to affect desire. Without desire, curiosity vanishes. Without curiosity, life’s luster languishes.

How to rekindle desire—and especially desire for things/people/relationships that will prove generative after five, ten, or 70 years?

My hunch is that my smartphone is not the secret to rekindling the right desire. Whatever is being sold there is likely not the direction that will sustain over the long haul. Gratitude seems a potential route to rekindled desire—on this point, both my atheist friend and the poet-king agree. A good conversation with a person full of life may rekindle desire.

Connection may rekindle desire. If your smartphone helps make connections with real humans, that’s good.

If not, focus.

Elsewhere.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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