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Conversations with Calliope- 2/27/10

By Joseph Langen
Feb 27, 2010, 11:57am


Sliding Otter News


February 27, 2010


Volume 2, Issue 5

Everybody's Talking At Me


Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying.

~Sandi Patti~

I don’t notice it so much at home, but recently I traveled to the Caribbean. Quite frequently I saw people plugged into various electronic devices while ignoring or not even noticing people sitting right next to them. Were they looking for information anonymously? Keeping in touch with others by text messages? Making sure they don’t miss anything? Just passing the time? Who knows?

In a recent AARP Magazine article, David Dudly, the editor of Urbanite magazine, decried “a nation of hyper-connected hermits, thumbs furiously working our BlackBerrys, each of us a master of an ever-smaller personal universe.” He goes on to observe that our communication with each other is more focused on accomplishing something than it is on enhancing our relationships with each other.

Dudly also cites Jacqueline Olds’ observation that the central paradox in life today is “simultaneous connection and isolation.” We can be in touch with others no matter where we are in the world but our electronic notes leave out our emotions, gestures and tone of voice. We can reach each other any time we want but in the process become farther away from each other’s “real self”.

Once we talked with each other just for the joy of doing so. Children sat with their grandparents on the front porch learning about the old days. Men waiting in barber shops shared their opinions about the weather, politics or local gossip while women in beauty salons did the same. Friends gathered at each others’ houses for dinner or parties on a regular basis.

I’m not suggesting that we have lost the ability to communicate. Perhaps we just don’t exercise our skills in this area as often as we once did. On my trip, I had quite a few pleasant conversations with people I had never met and will likely never see again. Looking back on these conversations, I found them more superficial than I would have liked. I disappointed myself by not sharing more of me than I did. Not that I had to stay on the surface but it seems the thing to do in this day and age. Pleasant recollections of my conversations remain but I don’t feel like I shared anything of substance with those I met.

I fear that this trend locks us in our own worlds and keeps us from knowing about the lives of those we encounter just once or on a regular basis. I wonder about our relationships. Marriage, parenting, friendship and society as a whole become tainted.  They strain with the increasingly clipped and limited snippets of information we share with others, leaving our lives increasingly alone and lonely.


Life Lab Lessons


  • What do you share with others and how do you do it?

  • How many people know the real you?

  • What would your relationships be like if you made them a priority?

  • Put aside your devices for a few hours and try talking directly to others instead.

  • Share something personal with someone else and try learning something personal in return. 


Conversations with Calliope- Writing, Reading and Understanding

By Joseph Langen
Dec 30, 2009, 1:57pm




(Just Stuff)

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.~Robert McCloskey

JOE: Good afternoon, Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good afternoon Joe. Did you sleep in?
JOE: Not this long. I was busy getting some exercise and ordering a new computer.
CALLIOPE: I see. Sounds like you have communication on your mind.
JOE: Here's a little story. My girlfriend received an MP3 player for Christmas. She asked me to load some songs on it for her.
CALLIOPE: Sounds simple enough.
JOE: I thought so too. In order to load songs, the device must be synchronized with Windows Media Player (WMP). Although the computer recognize the device as attached, WMP did not.
CALLIOPE: A problem.
JOE: Indeed. The directions referenced a website URL where all was to be explained. Of course there was no such site attached to the URL.
CALLIOPE: Still stuck.
JOE: Well, I found the site eventually and downloaded a PDF manual for the device. The first instruction advised opening a file which does not seem to exist.
CALLIOPE: Customer Service?
JOE: There was no number to call but I did find an e-mail address. My post was acknowledged but no help has been forthcoming. After much ado I discovered that the files I wished to download had indeed ended up on the device along with quite a few other files I did not wish to download. They were a mishmash instead of being in any particular order.
CALLIOPE: So now what?
JOE: I'm done. We agreed that it is going back to the store in favor of something with directions which make some sense. Talk with you tomorrow.



Conversations with Calliope- Doubt

By Joseph Langen
Jul 24, 2009, 8:56am


(Nina Sails)

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. How are you today?
JOE: Tired but energized.
JOE: Last night after golfing with my brothers and nephew, and dinner also including my sister-in-law we watched the movie Doubt which one of my brothers had not seen.
CALLIOPE: How did you choose that movie?
JOE: Those of us who had seen it had various opinions about whether the main character, a priest, had molested a boy.
CALLIOPE: What caused the various opinions?
JOE: It was staged with clues suggesting possible guilt. One opined that he was guilty as sin, another held that he was not guilty and still another thought there were indications but not proof of guilt.
CALLIOPE: What do you draw from the experience?
JOE: A well crafted movie or novel for that matter can elicit various reactions and conclusions.
CALLIOPE: Why does that fascinate you?
JOE: Art can be a way of bringing us together to compare our views and begin to understand each other.
CALLIOPE: I agree.
JOE: I'm glad you do. That's what I want to do with my writing.
CALLIOPE: A good aim.
JOE: I'm glad we are together on this. Talk with you tomorrow.




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