Communication – are we single tracked?

In a recent get-together, a colleague confessed that things were not as well with the group as they should have been. The reason – everyone spoke a common dialect, excepting him – and they preferred to communicate in their native tongue rather than english. And no matter how much he tried, the language barrier was proving insurmountable.

Now, here’s the interesting thing – this guy was one of the most affable chaps you could ever hope to meet. And one of the most travelled – so adapting to new cultures and languages came easily to him. The team was a very enterprising unit as well, so how did they not realise he was feeling out of place, and why was he finding it so difficult to communicate to them they needed to speak in English – at least when he was around?

The problem got me thinking on something more fundamental. Knowingly or unknowingly – the spoken word (or written language) has become the defacto means of communication. They communicate ideas, they communicate emotion, they communicate everything these days. So much so, that we have become a little insensitive to other means over time!

If you dont believe me, lets take stock – when was the last time you sat with your friend comfortably in silence (true communion huh!). Where the silence spoke a language that you understood? On a more profound note – think about ramana maharishi or eckhart tolle’s silences which transform you with no need for words.

Or remember the last time you enjoyed music that didn’t need lyrics to move you. Listening to the music translated the emotions directly (the violin duo of ganesh-kumaresh are doing an awesome job with their new album in this regard).

Remember when you practiced munna bhai’s hug theraphy on someone (a child, a friend, a spouse, a relative..) and they felt better immediately. Remember a tough day, when someone laid a hand on yours in understanding – and you felt more reassured?

Dont get me wrong – we still need the words to survive today. However words are easier to manipulate. The body and the soul are better (and faster) at detecting sincerity than the mind is. They are also more adept at communicating emotion and experiences than the spoken word can ever be. Its harder to fake sincerity – try faking a comfortable silence or composing music you cant identify with and you’ll know what I mean!

The word of course helps detail out ideas and implementation – its the blood that keeps our society alive, we couldn’t do without it. Also, some of our best authors and speakers do an awesome job of translating great ideas, emotions and experiences through the spoken word as well. Just try to read through a PG Wodehouse without laughing – am sure you’ll agree with me.

Endpoint – words (written and spoken) are required – its what allows us to live our lives today for the most part. But would it be a good idea to become a little sensitive to the other means (touch, pure sound, maybe vision, sense of feel etc.) and incorporate them into out lives – it may add more spirit to our lives?

An answer to an evergreen question?

Why are we here on earth at all – is there a purpose or is it all a game of chance?

Its a question that has perplexed philosophers for ever. Here’s a rather intriguing answer from the best selling book “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield:

“Each of us is the next step in evolution along the lineage created by our two parents. Our higher purpose on earth can be found by recognising what our parents accomplished and where they left off. By reconciling what they gave us with what they left us to resolve, we can get a clear picture of who we are and what we are meant to do.”

Think about this for a minute. Maybe two. I couldn’t make up my mind on whether to agree or disagree with the quote above, maybe you have better luck!

On the brink of something special – an immersive future

A quiet weekend sees me doing nothing in particular but ruminating on how ancient man seems to have been inspired by nature, with some enormously beneficial outcomes:

1. Yoga asanas and martial arts inspired by our animal kingdom to tone the body and keep the mind alert. Cobra pose, monkey style get the idea

2.Incorporating a knowledge of the seasons, the stars, the plan and the animal kingdoms into taking holistic decisions (effect of watching “The Gods must be crazy” I guess!).

3. Meditation gleaned from understanding spontaneity and stillness (yes together!) of nature (think about observing a flower in bloom, a dew drop at dawn or the limitless sky). These have been perceived as doorways into the infinite for aeons…

Man has looked at himself and his relationship with nature to derive meaning.And while it has worked wonderfully well, for the most part the experience is limited to the practitioner.So while the yogic man can experience the bliss of relaxation gleaned from a reading of a cat in repose, and the man who understands the effects of an eclipse on his body and mind is at advantage.

For the unaware, this is of no help at all. You need to participate to reap the benefits for the most part.

On the other hand, Science and society seem to have partnered with a focus on objective outcomes as opposed to participant-centric-holistic outcomes (quite a mouthfull!). So aeroplanes allow people to get from destination a to destination b – which was the end objective – but the bird’s sense of freedom during flight was not important, and therefore not built into the experience. Categorisation was not on ability of a person to experience flight but on ability to pay for the journey and hence we have “business class” but not “athlete class”!

But I guess this is evolving again further. Participation is again becoming a critical component in newer models while keeping objective successes on the anvil as well – fuelled by science’s forays into immersive experiences and technology ubiquity.

A few examples:

A bunch of students recently Built a car that’s powered by likes and shares – a “social” car if there ever was one!

Airlines are speculating options of incentivizing passengers to lose weight.The Nike Fuel band is allowing people to take control of their own life habits. Your performance and not your bank balance will allow you a preferred membership status!

Wii and Kinect are transforming the video gamer from a couch potato into an athlete

Groups like the “slow movement” are teaching people to savour their life better. “Externalities accounting” ensures accountants can no longer take the environment for granted and push down one dollar burgers which cost our environments USD 200 in damage!

All of which makes me think that science and spirituality (for want of a better word) are coming together to make our lives (and our ecosystem) better and sustainable. Now that’s a nice thought?