Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Talking at Light Speed

Hello Dear Reader, 
and fellow citizen,
You can send out your words at the speed of light,
But can you think that fast?

Proper talk takes proper time. 

I remember one evening when I was chairman of the board of directors for Full Circle Adventures, an outdoor pursuits company. Our chief programmer wanted to hire more program leaders. This was harder than it sounds because we didn’t do run-of-the-mill programs. No, we would do a program like “snowshoeing-and-yoga” in the same weekend. Because for us, each program had to offer things beyond the purely physical.

It would be a team interview, with her and I interviewing candidates. She wanted us to set up a time for a telephone call so we two could plan out our interview agenda. I said, “No.”
“No? You sure?” 
“Yes, I’m sure. We had better meet in person.” 

So one evening we did. At a quiet members-only bar. The same bar where we would interview candidates. Result? As we talked, with time to relax our brains, at one point it “popped into my head” that we could have our candidates plan a program, on paper, right there at the table. Wow! Candidates really liked that idea, because they were really excited to work with a company that looked into the spiritual, emotional, nature-world and so forth—not merely “physical education moved outdoors.”

Good thing we two had met to calmly plan in person, as this would not have “popped in” while talking over the phone lines. Strange but true, in this age of light-speed communication, face to face still works best. Of course, light-speed has its limitations. May I appear to digress? Science writer Isaac Asimov once wrote a scene where a senior scientist is telling his old mother about his frustration as she sits knitting. The man’s problem is the “light-speed delay.” You may recall that as our Apollo astronauts were in the lunar rover riding across a crater it took a second and a half for our radio waves to reach them. 

Houston: “What’s that to your left?” As the buggy rolls along. 
Astronaut: “Where?” Round trip of three seconds… A question to Jupiter takes 30 minutes. One way.

To reach a domed base on a planet orbiting another star? Light-years. Four and something years to the closest star.
“What about X?”
“Do you mean Y?”
“No, I mean X.”  With over a dozen years lost.

The senior scientist expresses his frustration to his mother. Without dropping a stitch Mama tells him what the ladies do: They just keep information constantly flowing around their social circle,  out and back again. During the flow, most questions get answered, without ever being asked! 
The scientist? He’s speechless. 
Mama? She’s happy her boy still listens to his mother.

I thought of this because a retired fellow I know has no landline, but he does have one of those new fangled cellular telephones. With a phone plan. With very limited minutes. Sometimes as we talk he asks what he can do for me, or I for him. I’ll tell you, dear reader, what I can’t do for him: Problem solve. There is no time for information flow, not enough flow for me to make any connections. No “Hey, I just realized—this compares to what Roger faced. What he did was…” No “Something just popped into my head. Have you thought of…?” I can tell the old guy information I already know, off the top of my head, but I can't reach down into my subconscious where wisdom lies. Neither can I stand in silence, like propane salesman Hank Hill and his buddies do, around a truck with the hood up, as they regard a broken engine.

Proper talk takes proper time. I remember my old Mount Royal College professor, Len Thomas, Ph.D., telling us that if you ask someone to go for a cigarette, then you have seven minutes to converse; if a coffee, you have 15 minutes. If less than a cigarette, under a very limited cell phone plan, then you are like someone living under communism: You censor yourself, in advance, semi-consciously, so creativity never happens. Nothing pops in. 

I believe, fellow citizen, there’s a reason the Iran theocracy, with millions of residents, has produced no internationally-read Salman Rushdie. They are walled off from their subconscious. Their muse has fled. There’s been no great literature out of Russia since the Marxist October revolution, nothing classic out of mainland China, with their “Great fireWall,” (Censoring the Internet) since they went communist. Meanwhile, we still read Tolstoy and Gorky from economically harsher but mentally easier times, before the coming of the Thought Police. 

In everyday life, dear reader, if you are surrounded by oppressive relatives, friends or co-workers, then I suppose there must be a similar dampening down of your brain functions. In a harsh realm your I.Q. may drop to the point where you seem, even to yourself, to lack even common sense. Unfortunately you would not realize you were “artificially dumber” unless you somehow escaped—not only physically, but got away from the “committee in your head” too. 

Ugly ducklings don’t grow until they are among swans. This I know, from decades ago, as a child, adolescent and young man. One awful week, as a middle aged fellow, I temporarily returned to a “state of oppression.” (Self imposed) Weird. I regressed to making bizarre mistakes—incredibly bizarre—and then, after it was all over, and my life was nicely back to normal, I thought: “Holy cow, is that what I used to be like, decades ago, all the time?” It was very weird.

A pop culture equivalent, shown by camera, might be the episode of Angel where Wesley’s abusive father comes from England to officially visit the office. Wesley, a competent senior partner, bumps into a door frame, and bumps into an administrative assistant carrying a stack of papers. This is to outwardly show his inner plummeting I.Q. 

Near the end of the episode, to do what’s right, during a “clear and present danger,” Wesley has to shoot his own father… The father being a covert operative for the bad guys. Wesley stands there, his gun smoking, grimly speaking clearly—his I.Q. instantly restored—about what to do next.

Now-a-days when I talk, be it face to face or at the speed of light, I consider time and space and who.

Sean Crawford
Central London

Recent posts in context:
 Down the years, I have been re-examining the story of my family. As part of such re-examining, reframing and retelling, I have become more productive in life. In other words: My brain is clearer. 

My August essays have included examples of Hollywood art (and genre) reflecting life. It might be OK to live our lives on autopilot, but for an artist it’s not OK: For many artists, an unexamined society is not worth living in. (Socrates) The novelist mentioned above (by the headline I believe) points out, in his wikipedia article, that stories matter… that our nation, family, even our very selves, are a story.

The problem with Islam today, at least in the theocracies like Iran that still mix mosque and state, is that people are restricted to shallow breathing, without feeling permission to reexamine, change, and retell the stories they grew up with. Hence Iran still has an infamous torture prison. It’s as if to them God is no longer a living God, but dead and frozen in place. This unwillingness to think doesn’t serve God and man… it only serves some old male persons who enjoy having power over others.

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