More than superficial communication: linking Tom McM's commentary & Eugene Stockton's... (Main Forum)
Tom McMahon's and Eugene Stockton's comments of recent days, plus some observations made by different people in the forum, have had me thinking about a couple of related things.
Firstly I sense Eugene is correct that much of our modern, civilized communication has become superficial. In recent days I read that in China mobile communications have now eclipsed desktop computer communications and that does worry me at a couple of levels*. Here at Catholica I still haven't configured Catholica for mobile communications and feel myself becoming something of a technological trogolodyte as I can't keep up with the pace of technological change anymore. I even set up Catholica facebook and twitter channels sometime ago but I don't even exploit them principally because I simply cannot find the hours in the day to do so. I can't even find the hours in the day to respond to the avalanche of ordinary emails I get each day these days.
(Interestingly enough Fr Eugene has deliberately chosen not to have a computer at all. Even though he lives "just up the road" and does have a telephone I find it difficult communicating with him as against communicating with people who do have computers, email, etc.. That has been an interesting experience itself in our developing relationship.)
At another level though facebook and twitter do worry me because they favour "superficial communication" — surface, fairy floss venting of the emotions rather than deep communication that informs and lifts the human spirit. I find even with my own children — for a complexity of reasons I won't go into at the moment but do think much about and would like to explore indepth at some later time — are becoming increasingly "superficial". (I wonder if other people are finding that as well. Perhaps another observation that could be made is that you come across many families in modern society where the communication has never been anything but superficial — and that is perhaps another discussion.)
Tom's commentary today, it seems to me, is about "depthed communication". Milly and myself met Dorothy and other members of Tom McMahon's community at a luncheon at his home in San Jose last year. So, in writing the foregoing, I am partly basing my observation on a face to face meeting with these people and not simply on what Tom writes.
My gut sense is that for sustainable relationships, and sustainable communities, depthed conversation is essential. As Eugene Stockton seems to imply, it is theologically important as well.
Tom writes of his own community and how it is dying. In a sense we haven't been able to pass on our "faith" to our offspring either. We have passed on some set of values and, in another sense, I wouldn't have wanted to pass on to them "the faith of my father" — while it was appropriate to the time in which he lived it is patently inadequate for today or the times in which my children and grandchildren will be living beyond my time.
I hope you can make some sense of the issues I am raising here. In a sense I think there is a deep, virtually genetic or animal sense within all of us to "pass on" something to our offspring. I'm not exactly sure what that "something" is any longer — a set of values, wisdom, knowledge we've picked up to this point of the human journey (not just our personal journey)? I think it is something more substantial than merely "the faith of our mothers and fathers" but what it is exactly, I'm not precisely sure. I don't sense we're trying to build monuments to ourselves — although self-evidently some in society attempt to do that. To pass on whatever "it" is that we desire to pass on though I do sense we need depthed rather than superficial communication.
A question I'd put to Tom, and anybody who has had experience in "small groups" or "Basic Christian Communities" is this question of sustainability. How can they outlive the generation who started them .... and is the question even important that they outlive the original founders? At one level it perhaps doesn't matter but, at another level, do we not need some sense of community and, dare I say it, institution or structure, that can carry the accumulated wisdom, experience and knowledge? This takes us back to Eugene's observation about the indigenous peoples and their "passing down" the knowledge and wisdom orally through the songlines and dreaming. Are modern communities losing the ability to transmit forward their accumulated wisdom and knowledge because of this "communication arrow" that is pointing to increasing superficiality in person-to-person communications?
Just as tangent to all of the above, and thinking about the discussion on the communication styles of bishops, I have known for a long time that it is very difficult to have a non-superficial conversation with priests and bishops. Only in the last few days as a result of these present conversations have I been better able to put my finger on what is missing. That's for another conversation though albeit it might be related to what I've opened up for discussion above.
If others here have thoughts on any of this I, for one, would value hearing them.
*A WORD OF FURTHER EXPLANATION I have long had a sense that a bonus of desktop and laptop communications has been a freeing from the restriction imposed by the cost of newsprint for more "in depth" communications. In the section of Kaiser's book I've been reading in recent days he's been discussing the "scoop" that Le Monde and National Catholic Reporter were given on the "inside discussions" in Paul VI's Commission. Le Monde wouldn't print it because it was simply too expensive in terms of the newsprint costs that would be required. NCR eventually printed the information in full. Kaiser gives some of the inside negotiations between NCR and Le Monde on this. The world was better informed because NCR published the information unexpurgated albeit it was massively expensive for them to do so compared to just publishing a summary. The advent of the internet and the WWW has changed all that. I think that has been a massive bonus for humankind witnessed to by the Leveson Inquiry, Wikileaks, Vatileaks, and a thousand other developments including Wikipedia and the entire Google phenomenon. It is of course too much for a lot of people who believe "if you can't say it in two sentences, it isn't worth saying". Rupert has built his empire on those people. Mobile devices, with their small screens, and twitter with its 140 character limit, are not exactly conducive to "depthed communications" but to transmission of the "superficial". Do these developments perhaps pressage a future for public communications that might be even more superficial than that experienced in the days of print communication where so much of the cost of communications was dictated by the cost of newsprint and paper? The determinant of the future might be the size of hand-held devices — although I am enjoying Kaiser's book via Kindle — or the limits imposed by communication channels by the publishers such as twitter?
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- More than superficial communication: linking Tom McM's commentary & Eugene Stockton's... - Brian Coyne, 2012-07-20, 17:20