Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dialogue is an Ancient Form of Communication

Cleaning up my computer, I came across this item that I wrote back in 2005. I haven't read it again carefully, but in glancing at it, I think that I'd still endorse its main premises. Sometimes I surprise myself!

The dialogue is an ancient form of communication, perhaps first made famous by the Socratic dialogues of Plato, varied by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Question & Answer form, and in contemporary times the dialogue is favored by psychotherapists, starting with Freud himself. So I have decided to write a dialogue between one character whom I call "The Question Master" (QM) and the Student (S). The dialogue goes like this:

QM: My dear how are you today?
S: Not very good.
QM: Why not?
S: I received a crappy assignment with a bunch of losers.
QM: Why is that bad?
S: They are a waste of time--And my co-worker was equal to them in ineptitude.
QM: So you got nothing out of this?
S: No
QM: Did you learn what you don't like?
S: Well, yes, but I already knew that!
QM: As well as you do now?
S: Well, it's certainly been reinforced.
QM: Ah, reinforcement is a pillar of learning.
S: I could have done without it.
QM: Well, what was so bad about it again?
S: The students weren't motivated to learn.
QM: Why not?
S: I'm not sure, maybe they were forced to come by their parents.
QM: Could you give them motivation?
S: I tried, but it didn't catch on?
QM: Isn't motivation contagious?
S: It can be, it's like fire, you have to have the right conditions to get it going.
QM: Well put. What conditions are those?
S: Well, mostly a person's mindset.
QM: Can you control those?
S: No, who can?
QM: Can you control your own?
S: Well, more so than someone else's.
QM: Well put. So did you motivate yourself to ignite the fire?
S: I tried.
QM: "Do or do not", I once heard someone say.
S: Well, it's not easy.
QM: What's the value of "easy"? About the value of a penny, I'd say.
S: Well, it was just to uphill, it got me down.
QM: What is it?
S: Well, the collective attitude?
QM: So you bought it?
S: Bought what, Question Master?
QM: The collective attitude?
S: Well, I guess so.
QM: Why did you buy it?
S: Well, I didn't really buy it. I caught it like a disease.
QM: Which metaphor--contagious disease or purchase--is more accurate?
S: Disease, I think.
QM: Well, let's pursue that for a moment. Is their a vaccine for the disease?
S: Not that I know of.
QM: Can your thoughts inoculate you?
S: I don't know how.
QM: Two fellows from ancient Rome, one a slave and one an emperor, thought you could inoculate yourself from others.
S: Oh, really? Who?
QM: Marcus Aurelius & Epictetus.
S: Those names are familiar, I think someone gave me books by them.
QM: Now, going with the other metaphor, do you think that you bought an attitude.
S: Certainly not on purpose!
QM: Got flim-flammed?
S: Well, in a sense.
QM: So you gave your "money", your energy, your chi, away to someone on a scam?
S: I don't follow you.
QM: Well, when someone is in a funk, depressed (or more accurately, depressing), they always show signs of a lack of energy. So the person either gave their energy away or allowed it to be stolen from them.
S: Well, that's not always true, some people can't control those circumstances.
QM: That's true, if the body malfunctions, the mind can suffer. Have you experienced this?
S: Do you mean how I feel, in the body, can effect my mind?
QM: Well, have you ever experienced this?
S: Well, yes I suppose so. Sometimes I'm grouchy when I first
wake up. So what's a person to do?
QM: You mean, how can the mind out-fox the body?
S: I suppose you could put it that way.
QM: Well, what does the mind have that the body doesn't have?
S: Well, it's hard to say, let's see, it's a bit of a chicken and the egg problem.
QM: Well put, but chickens and eggs don't co-exist in time together, as each follows the other, while minds and bodies co-exist.
S: And each influences the other!
QM: Well put, but again I ask, how can the mind get the upper hand?
S: Well, the mind can imagine the future, while the body is much more immediate.
QM: True.
S: And the mind can hold the image of the body in time, and the body can't do that.
QM: Yes, indeed.
S: So the mind can anticipate the body, know what it might do.
QM: Excellent. Tell me more.
S: Well, if we know what the body is likely to do, we can do something different, through the operation of the mind, to alter the course of the body.
QM: Can we control the body completely?
S: No, I don't think so, but if we know, for instance, that the body will grow hot in the sun, we can where a hat and a light colored shirt to reduce the heat, and thereby affect the body.
QM: How about the emotions?
S: Wow, are emotions mind or body?
QM: Or both?
S: Yes, maybe so.
QM: So what might one do with the emotions?
S: Well, since the body and mind are both involved, then, actually, you have more tools, as the body can effect the mind and the mind the body.
QM: You are a bright student.
S: What does all this have to do with me, how'd we get here?
QM: Well, you had a bad experience?
S: Oh, yea, a real bummer!
QM: And where was that experience?
S: Here at a camp.
QM: Really?
S: What do you mean "really"?
QM: Well, where was the real action?
S: Well, you know, out there.
QM: So everyone saw and experienced what you saw?
S: Well, they probably saw the same things.
QM: But did they experience the same things--not just see them.
S: Well, maybe not, some just didn't care.
QM: So where did their different experiences come from?
S: Well, you know, what they thought and what they expected.
QM: So where did you're experience occur?
S: Oh, I get it, you're saying that it's all inside my head. Bug off!
QM: Did I say that?
S: Well, not in so many words . . .
QM: How do you know what I meant?
S: Well, a good guess.
QM: Yes, just a guess. Why did you buy that guess? Was it the cheapest, most handy item on the shelf?
S: There you go again with the purchase metaphor.
QM: Why guess? Can you mind read?
S: Well, no. But I can take a guess, can't I?
QM: "Take a guess" Now it seems that you're getting into theft.
S: You get carried away with these metaphors.
QM: Me or you?
S: Well, are you or are you not suggesting that this is "all in my head"
QM: Yes--and no.
S: Brilliant!
QM: Yes, things happened, some things that might have been unpleasant, irksome, even painful.
S: You can say that again!
QM: If everyone shared the same space, the same sounds, the same sights, the same senses, how come they felt differently than you?
S: I know, because of how I interpreted it, what I "bought".
QM: Did you buy anything of value?
S: Well, I know what I don't like and what I don't want to do!
QM: What a valuable lesson!
S: I know what behavior can bring someone down--if that person is inoculated, or isn't suckered into buying into it.
QM: And how did you get here?
S: I was put there, against my will and better judgment, I might note!
QM: What can you do about it?
S: Not much, it's done now.
QM: So you can't change the past?
S: No, can you?
QM: No, sorry, time is a one-way street.
S: So everything remains the same?
QM: Can't you travel down a one-way street?
S: You mean the future?
QM: Yes, is the future closed?
S: Well, not completely.
QM: Somewhat opened, somewhat closed?
S: Yeah, that's a good way to put it.
QM: So what part do you want to travel on?
S: Well, the open part, of course!
QM: A wise decision, indeed.
S: So let me get all of this straight. You're saying that the future is open, the mind and the body are really two peas in one pod . . .
QM: You may say the mind-body.
S: I may, but maybe I choose not to.
QM: It's you choice.
S: Yes, it is, isn't it. Anyways, you also say that I "buy" ideas or attitudes from others and that maybe I have allowed myself to be ripped-off in the process.
QM: Yes, I think that's a fine metaphor.
S: Or you suggest that I've caught a nasty virus that I could have inoculated myself against. You make it sound like a public health problem.
QM: Interesting, do you know anything about that? It's out of my league.
S: I'm working on it.
QM: What fun, your own inter-personal relations public health problem!
S: Fun to you maybe, not to me.
QM: Sorry, carried away.
S: Okay, Question Master, it's late. I gotta go.
QM: Thank you for talking with me. I learned a lot. I ,hoped that I didn't waste your time.
S: Well, I was looking for someone to throw a party for me.
QM: Oh, what kind of a party?
S: Never mind.
QM: Could you not find a host or hostess?
S: I decided I didn't want a party, not any kind of a party.
QM: I'm not sure I follow.
S: Never mind. Besides, I thought that you were teaching me something.
QM: There you go supposing again!
S: Good-night, you weirdo!
QM: Thank you. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite!

The End.

Dan Buettner on the "Blues"

Researcher Dan Buettner @ a TEDMED talk. Some really interesting stuff about movement (exercise without all the equipment or clothes), food, and how ineffective modern medicine and public policy have been in dealing with issues of preventable diseases of civilization. The good news? Some simple, community changes can reap some real benefits. Very interesting viewing.