One of the problems confronting me in the writing of this blog is that I do not know what to assume about its potential readers. Not only must I assume that only a few will have read the book, and will therefore have some idea of its central thrust; I can also only speculate about the ability, concerns, and modes of understanding of any reader. Since I want the blog to stimulate conversation, I must, in fact, rely on the willingness of readers to participate, and, in doing so, improve my understanding of what might be useful to them . . . (or, otherwise put, to you who are presently reading this).
In previous posts I have of course simply guessed what might be of concern to you, and, in the absence of any reader response, I can probably do little better than persist in my guesswork. This, then, is my plea for you to become actively involved in the conversation. A monologue will quickly exhaust the interest of all of us!
That said, I do want to comment briefly and more specifically on what I have been trying to do in those earlier posts. I have taken for granted that all readers are doing the best they feel they can to both improve the quality of their understanding of their own lives, and how they might improve their engagement with others in our communal life. What may be relatively new to some readers, however, will have been my overall concern to define that communal life in both global, and personal terms. The downside to such an approach is that, in concentrating on either aspect of the large picture, it may seem to de-emphasize either one at the expense of the other. Those of you who have read the book will know that it not only attempts to deal with all of us as collectively determining the quality of our overall existence, but also emphasizes our personal involvement in our evolution as a species These are larger issues than most of us are likely to feel comfortable in confronting––the demands of our everyday lives cry out their priority––but the position I argue for in the book is that our very survival as a species may depend on our communal willingness to confront them.
From some of the earlier posts, I hope you will have become slightly better acquainted with some of those who are contributing to a wider awareness of ourselves, but there is a still larger task––the one, in fact, that I feel I gave insufficient attention to in the book itself. Possibly it's best to state it first simply as a question . . .
"How can we contrive to hear one another better?"
To ask that question now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, undoubtedly stimulates very different responses from the sort we might have expected, say, fifty years ago. All the technologically accomplished nations on earth presently have significant populations who are as familiar with computers and the internet as those fifty years ago were savvy about telephones. The current almost universal myth amongst such groups is that we are now better connected with one another than we ever were previously, and in one respect this is undoubtedly true. I am presently sitting at my keyboard, and writing what I can reasonably expect to be available to anyone, anywhere on earth, who knows how to use the internet, can understand English, and has found my blog. Similarly, I can gain access to the questioning and mental ruminations of others whose activities are documented on the world wide web. A few judicious clicks of my mouse are all that separate me from the works of other minds, even the very greatest ones.
Hold on a minute, though! What determines whether I can actually find those minds, hear them, and be affected by what they say? What determines whether they (the actual living ones, of course!) can hear and be affected by what I say? In that respect, things are probably little different now from what they were fifty years ago, or a hundred, or a thousand. Most of us are still likely to hear largely what we listen for, and listen for only what we are willing to hear. The factors affecting those tendencies are examined at some length in my book, but I think that at least some further attention needs to be paid to those characteristics of the internet that both boost the amount of data that is now potentially available to those who are adept at searching it out, and at the same time inhibit our ability to discern in it what is meaningful. Data is not in itself, of course, information, unless we can interpret it as having a particular meaning. What are the factors that on the internet affect our ability to do so?
Bear with me . . . I've been attempting an adequate answer for some time now, and I'm still not satisfied. Other perspectives on this will be very welcome! Part of the nature of our problem is expressed rather well in the plaintive article by Heidi Julavits published in The New Statesman of April 18th 2012. It is called "Ten years on, the Believer has had to change its ways." From my point of view, the outcome envisaged and planned for in the article is a particularly unsatisfactory one, but the evidence of limited open-mindedness to new information and perspectives is tellingly presented. The general tone is aptly summarized in The New Statesman's own portmanteau heading that precedes the article: it is "American Writing Special –– Cough Syrup for the Mind." You should be able to find it at
Are we indeed becoming better connected? It appears not!
More soon . . .
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