by Jim Harris
We are watching TV and video, going to movies, reading books, listening to tapes, and attending lectures and seminars. We are emailing, faxing and express mailing information to each other all over the globe constantly.
And then, of course, there are cell phones. I am forever whirling around out in public to see who's talking to me, only to find that it's some lone person on their mobile. "Yeah. I'm at the market. What kind of milk do you want ?" I'm always kind of disappointed to discover that they weren't talking to me, especially since I don't even own a cell phone, and am totally missing out on all the fun. I always feel like joining in their conversation rather than obediently remaining silent and apart ("Have you tried soy milk? It's really good!"), but I'm sure it would lead to chaos and the ultimate collapse of civilization (that's a bad thing, right?).
The rate of exchange of information between people is at an all time, mind-boggling high. So, what has all this communication resulted in in terms of human relations? Road rage, air rage, impatience, impotence, divorce, lawsuits, and increasing factionalization. We seem ever less likely to compromise, trust, or - heaven forbid - accept less than our full personal due in life. The communications revolution seems to be pulling us apart rather than bringing us together. The New World Order is beginning to look like a free-for-all at a tag-team wrestling match. The Non-smoking Neo-modernist Blue-eyed Clog Dancers won't sit at the same table with the Left-handed Mimes Against Faulty Farm Equipment.
Is it just that people are inherently self-centered and combative, and that the more we interact, the more differences and disagreements arise? How about the immediacy of our media? There's no time to cool off or think things over when there's always an opportunity to reply instantly. The pace of our modern conversation is rapid and incessant. No one listens to 45-minute symphonies anymore. We listen to 3-minute songs and 30-second commercials while driving to work, checking our hair in the rear-view mirror, and talking to our stock brokers on the cell phone. A 10-second wait for a new page to download on the computer is interminably long and unacceptable.
Typically, as new pressures arise from technology, we try to create solutions as well from new technologies and disciplines. We assemble virtual realities in which to take virtual vacations from the the real world. We hire personal trainers, "life coaches", consultants, gurus, and therapists of all kinds to poke, prod, massage and reason away our growing sense of stress and isolation. We take various mind-altering drugs with possible side effects including death, destruction and insanity.
It seems that there is danger
in talking more without actually having anything to say. Well-considered
opinions and eloquent pronouncements grow out of quiet solitude.The
good news is that by communicating more we have actually become
more distinct individuals. The bad news is that this causes many
to compare themselves to others in a competitive way.
So, what is my well-considered opinion on all this egomania? Glad you asked. Herewith are my steps to deliriously happy living, guaranteed to win you no prestige or influence of any kind:
Listen more, talk less.
Pray for someone you don't like.
Do something nice for someone without them knowing it.
Try to put yourself in the place of someone who really bugs you.
Do something silly or whimsical without worrying about what others might think..
Try enjoying your own company once in a while, listening to the voices in your head (unless they're telling you to kill people).
Realize that in doing these
things, you are making yourself a better person. Not better than
someone else, but better than your own previous best, and that's
all that matters.
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