Nine Strategies For Honest and Effective Communication

 

Strategies For Honest and Effective Communication

  1. Adrenaline Control (Even if you have a thought or an idea to share and want to really point it out because its gonna stick it to the ‘enemy’ and prove your case. Hold on. It won’t slip from your mind.) If you blurt it out due to fear of losing it then it may not come out as coherently as necessary.
  2. Remember to engage in fruitful discussions often for the sake of practice.
  3. Be corteous but don’t be a pushover. Be bold but not condescending or vicious. Be playful but not clownish.
  4. Understand that even when people behave maliciously it may not be personal. Even though it really feels that way. This really helps with adrenaline control.
  5. Be physically fit and get adequate rest regularly. This will help you be mentally sharp and emotionally stable. Something that is a requisite for critical thinking and engaging in debate.
  6. Understand why effective communication, debate, and dialogue are so necessary and integral to a free and open society.
  7. Know the common list of logical fallacies and weed them out of yourself to the best of your abilities. Point them out and diffuse them in others without condescension.
  8. Read and research always.
  9. LISTEN. Seriously that’s one of the biggest things in communicating. NO. It IS THE BIGGEST. LISTEN

It Moves You Know – Book Teaser

Introduction

A Little Back Story

How does one begin to care about water?  Water being something that is generally only thought about when one is thirsty or needs a wash. It is something that falls from the sky. So how does one begin to care about water enough to write a book on it?

Sometimes lifes projects come out of nowhere. Or more accurately seemingly so. This particular project was probably launched when Mr. Warner my highschool Earth Science teacher first mentioned that water may become an issue in the coming decades.

That idea sat in the back of my mind for years. Completely dormant and drowned out by all the usual business and distraction of being a young man. It was not until I picked up the book Consilience about two years ago that I was confronted with the reality of limited resources.

Consilience is not an environmental book. It is one of those intellectual adventures that scientists go for in response to the great mystery of life. Consilience is E.O. Wilsons attempt to synthesize all knowledge or at least provide suggestons on how to do so. It is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

The end of the book talks briefly about the sheer magnitude of effort and resources that are necessary to keep us all alive. The amount of water used for this enterprise was one of the topics and triggerd the memory of old Mr. Warner.

This came at a fortuitous time. That is if you consider the creation of a book fortuitous. I was looking for something to do. I knew that I had to do something. I’d spent too much time looking and studying and not enough time doing.

So I rememberd that I had always meant to write. Writing is something I consider myself to be good at. Words and ideas come with ease and coherence. Something that is more the result of having a love of reading instilled in me early rather than any inherent braininess.

Because writing came naturally and books didn’t have the utility of a V8 I began to view it as not quite a career. I needed to get a real job and build real skills. So I bounced about from oddjob to oddjob attempting to teach myself computer programming. Because things have to have utility you know.

This is why the discovery of the water issue was fortuitous. It was an issue that my skill could at least tackle a bit. It was an issue that had utility. Part of solving a problem is having a good grasp of it and that only comes from thinking. Writing being formalized thinking is perfect for the job.

So now I had a mission. I needed to find out about water, about how we use water, and all the problems that arise therefrom. Then I needed to write about it.

You are reading that mission.

 

The Utility of Music

Music doesn’t feed me. It doesn’t put a roof over my head. Music doesn’t listen to me. Music consumes a large part of my time. Why on earth do I bother with something so seemingly lacking in utility?

Whether one is playing music or listening to music there is no directly observable material advantage. In fact one is generally sitting still and giving their full attention to fanciful ideas and neatly arranged sounds. This seems a rather absurd activity in a world where war, disease, and famine aren’t uncommon.

The case could be made that respite is a necessity. But is music about respite? Is music necessary for rest? Or is it a luxury? Something extravagant like a leather couch.

The latter doesn’t seem to be the case. There is a lot of music that can best be described as laborious. With the ear and soul struggling with its complexity. Some music is aggressive or crushingly sad. Who wants to be angry or sad?

The utility of music is questionable. The answer to that question lies in the name Music. To muse is the end of music. To feel, to think, and to dream that is the product of music. Feeling, thinking, and dreaming are each appealed to on different levels depending on the sort of music.

For instance the intricacies of counterpoint and the elegance of Bach even in its wildest moods is definitely thought provoking. It makes one ponder the vastness of creation. There is a huge well of emotion brought to the surface by the likes of Elliot Smith. There is a folksy dreaminess to the music of Nick Drake.

These are of course the author’s interpretations of the music. Even if they are correct do they really have utility in the classical sense of the word?

A bridge has utility, a farm has utility, and a hospital has utility. There is a clear empirical advantage to these things. One allows you to see your neighbor and get access to goods and lands. The second keeps you fed and clothed. The third tends to your illness. But music whose end is to make one muse simply makes your mind whirl. What’s the use of that however elegant or sublime?

There’s more to a man than what keeps him fed, clothed, and healthy. There is something like a soul even if solely for linguistic convenience. That soul and the mind inextricably linked to that soul both require nourishment. There are many paths to health, wealth, and happiness. They are not all equal.

It is thought that allows us to improve our situations and ourselves. Thought is of paramount importance. Thought has abundant utility. Music makes one muse which is to think, to dream, and to feel. It is therefore useful as an instrument for refining thought and understanding.

It is something that should be treated with as much care and respect as a farm, bridge, or hospital. It feeds the spirit, bridges time and space, and heals wounded hearts.

This isn’t merely a mawkish appeal to sentimentality. Music has objective worth. The objective worth of being a sieve for thought and feeling. What mathematics did for engineering music has done for culture. Let us not forget the objectively precise ratios involved in intervals. Let us not forget that an uninspired Einstein is merely a patent clerk.

The Ultimate Resource

 

Water is the ultimate resource.

It is essential for survival and underlies every human endeavor.

If you live in a hydrologically blessed area like the southeastern United States you may be curious as to why anybody would worry about water.

Most people in the developed world hold similar sentiments.

This is because our access to clean potable water is unprecedented.

But much of the world isn’t this fortunate. The Middle East, India, Pakistan, China, and the Southwestern United States are becoming increasingly water stressed.

Agriculture, industry, weather and shifting populations create hydrological quagmires whose outcomes often include misery, death, and ecological destruction. Such outcomes are often avoidable and can always be mitigated.

Understanding water will help us make better decisions regarding an indispensable resource.

It Falls From The Sky

Water is deceptively bountiful.

There are 1.1 quadrillion acre feet of water on the earth. Filling everything from oceans, to lakes, to rivers, and the atmosphere.

An acre foot is a foot of water covering an acre. An American football field is roughly an acre. Imagine 1.1 quadrillion football fields all covered with a foot of water.

Or better yet don’t. The human mind isn’t meant to deal with such astronomical numbers.

When things get to be that big that’s precisely what we say about them: Wow! That’s big. it’s a lot, etc.

This sort of necessary ambiguity often leads us to be flippant about the way we use and view resources.

Well, what of it? It falls from the sky!

The thing is that 1.1 quadrillion is mostly salt water. 97% of it is saline. Much of the remaining 3% is solidified in glaciers or if it’s liquid locked underground in aquifers.

An aquifer is an area of permeable rock that contains water. The ease with which we can get to that water and the quality of that water can vary a lot.

The next biggest repositories of fresh water are lakes and river.

There are around 71 billion acre feet in the lakes and about 1.6 billion acre feet at any given time in  rivers.

Aquifers, lakes, and rivers all effect each others water levels and often share contaminants. This highlights a notable characteristic of the resource. Namely, transience. Water doesn’t stay in one place.

All these things add up to a sobering picture. Our most vital resource is finite. It is a resource whose renewability does not guarantee accessibility.

Just because it falls from the sky doesn’t mean it will end up in your well.

Technology and Culture

Technology and Culture

People have not caught up to the technology they use. The technology is using them. The sheer amount of information to be processed coupled with all the avenues it comes from is a ball and chain.

This is not the statement of a luddite. Technology and progress are not only inevitable but indispensible for our well being and survival. It is however high time that we gave our interactions with it some further thought.

Constant auditory and visual stimuli completely unrelated to the environment in which one is present is certainly unnatural.

The nature of this information barrage has undergone a rapid and sweeping transformation. It began with radios giving news and entertainment and ended with telephones that could play full length feature films.

This transformation has as much to do with technical savvy as it does with our psychology. The radio you see was most obviously an intruder. When it was turned on one was patently aware that there was this clunky thing there in the living room talking about things that were happening elsewhere in a tangible sense.

Our TV phones have taken that sense of tangible other-where-ness straight to hell. We live in streams of information. Rather than coming by to nourish ourselves with little sips. Quantity in this case is most assuredly not quality.

The truth is we’re drowning. It’s high time that we found a shore, built some boats, learned to fish, and erected a dam. Though it may seem comic this analogy is done with serious intent. We absolutely must make massive efforts to understand and control how this paradigm is effecting us.

Let’s begin by talking about handwriting which is almost as antique as horse-drawn carriages. If you think that’s an exaggeration remember that people don’t even have to type if they don’t want to. They can just speak into a microphone and the words will appear on screen. If you want to call a friend or look up some bit of information you can ask the phone to do it as if it were some sort of electronic butler.

The problem with this marvel is that the easier things become the weaker we get. We also become less aware of the boundaries between our capacities and those of the devices that we rely on. Our eyes, ears, and mind become filtered through screens. In a sense we have already arrived at that old science fiction idea of merging with machines.

If you break a bone the limb in question is put in a cast. When the fracture has healed and the cast is removed you no longer have a natural range of motion. It has to be coaxed back with physical therapy.

The thing about this technology is that it acts exactly like a cast. The odd thing is most of us never take it off we simply keep buying fancier casts. It’s almost as if there is a trend for capacity expanding prosthetics.

If you think about it that’s what all technology is. Pen and paper expanded our capacity for dreaming and reasoning and the i-Phone is just a late stage iteration of this trend. Despite this cheery attribute these innovations are not of necessity expansive.

They are in fact incredibly limiting and serve to dull our capacities. This is not an inherent attribute. It is a function of how we interface with these devices.

The reason that they are limiting is threefold. Firstly the constancy and volume of data, secondly the selectivity of data, and finally the question of bio-feedback.

We are of course capable of dealing with vast amounts of information. But not a relentless universe of constant second to second info-barrage. One would think that all this info would make us better informed. However, most of us choose to listen to things which tickle our fancy and we favor novel inputs from those sources over in depth reflection on all that we’ve learned. That is a problem called selective hearing.

The question of bio-feedback has to do with the way more traditional media methods and interactions occurred versus the current trend. We are wired by nature to respond not to tweets but to human faces and voices in a five (some argue six) sense environment. We are not meant to look at a GPS schematic of the road we drive on but physical signs and landmarks.

The case of handwriting brilliantly illustrates this difference between natural (traditional) bio-feedback and (hybrid) cyber-bio-feedback. A 2012 study done by the psychologist Karin James at the University of Indiana showed that children who reproduced letters by hand showed greater brain activity than those that did so by tracing or typing. Another psychologist Virginia Berninger at the University of Washington discovered that when asked to brainstorm ideas children with better handwriting had greater activation in working memory and areas of the brain associated with writing. Handwriting notes as opposed to typing them was found to help students retain information better. This study done by Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California and Pam A. Mueller of Princeton concluded that this retention was due to handwriting stimulating greater reflection by virtue of understanding and then manually reframing the lecture on paper.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html)

What this means is that we are handicapping ourselves by always typing. That is where a cultural change should occur. In this particular instance we can instill a love of penmanship and encourage people to handwrite their essays and dissertations at least in part before they type them.

In a general sense we must use these findings to do things like encourage an appreciation of effort and critical thought. There must be a shift from an obsession with data to a focus on understanding. That’s the only way to rescue ourselves from the relentless flood of information.

Yes, data and the capacity to access it is great. But in the context of the current society we are needlessly sacrificing depth for breadth.

– Alex V. Weir