Category Archives: Practical Philosophy

Death as a Punctuation Mark

Plants at E window

I was just doing some stretching and moving in our family room, looking out of the picture window past our house plants gathered there for the morning sun. As I stretched, I spontaneously said aloud, “Tally (my recently deceased uncle Howard), if you can hear me, I want to tell you that I really appreciate the way you always greeted me with warmth and enthusiasm. I’m also grateful for the friendship you and my dad shared, and how much you both acknowledged that, before and after he died. I’m also thankful for the times you, aunt Betty, and various combinations of your kids took I and my brother Tommy along with y’all on adventures—to the camp on the bayou, to Whiskey Chitto Creek, and to Fatima high school football games when I was still too young to play.”

I don’t know if Tally lives on after death, or, if he does, if he could or would listen to my words. All the same, I felt a stirring in my heart as I spoke them, some moisture in my eyes, even as I do now as I type this—smiles, tears, and some other unnamable ingredients in the emotional gumbo, sweet with a bite.

A friend of mine reported the other day at our early morning mindful men’s meeting that it was a two-funeral day for him. He also shared that such times actually give him opportunity to feel more connected to the departed ones, and also to other living people. I also often find that true. In our discussion, I mentioned that sometimes I look at death as a punctuation mark. As I think more about that, I realize that death often brings more like an assorted collection of punctuation marks for me.

When someone dies, something certainly seems to change. I’m not sure what exactly. Is death a comma (not “coma” as I just read in reviewing)? Does life, does awareness continue on in some way? Or is it more like a period, the end of consciousness, a turning off of the computer for good? I wonder. I’ve had no experiences so far that suggest that I’ll be aware after I die. At the same time, I’m open to whatever adventures might arise. Oh yeah, and I do talk to people who’ve died, expressing gratitude and sometimes asking questions even. It helps me here and now, even without faith or confidence that I’m connecting.

Meanwhile, I figure that the kind of person I’d be after I die would be much like or the same as the character I am now. So, it makes sense to me to “live like you were dying,” as Tim McGraw’s song puts it. A key ingredient for me in that is savoring the flow of experiences moment by moment. I even remember to do that sometimes. I think of it as fruit there for the picking. Telling others how they brighten my life also tends to bring smiles inside and out. I probably remember to do that less than the savoring part. Opportunity! Thankfully, I told uncle Tally more than once how I valued him, including the time he shared similar sentiments with my father the afternoon my pop took his last breath.,!?

C-ing (seeing) Communication

November 18, 2016

mj-uku

My wife and I are back from a four-day trip to CA to visit her mom, who is in her final chapter, maybe paragraphs, of life. What follows is a slightly edited version of notes I dictated this morning to my phone. After taking out the obvious goofy translations, I decided to post this to this blog, because, why not? No one need read it, but one can if it’s here, so, here it is. Editing is by far the most challenging aspect of writing for me (probably living, too!). If I publish a book or an essay, I’ll invest time in concision. For now, I’m simply going to share what I’m doing in this less-refined way, and see how that goes.

Among other things, I’m getting back to exploring, examining, reviewing, and thinking about communication. I’m renewing my R&D of Clarifying, Caring, Curious Communicating (“C-ing Communicating.” There are many other C words that go well before ‘communicating’, so I’m experimenting with simply calling it “C-ing –pronounced “seeing”– Communicating or Communication.” More later on that). I’m exploring how I can, how we can communicate better, and how that can foster flourishing and enjoyment for all of us.

One important element is learning to communicate using those “C” qualities with myself, that is, between the various points of view and patterns in this particular brain-mind-body. There is seemingly one particular, conscious, verbal aspect of mind that wants to call itself “I.” And the other Pods (Parts of Dave) appear to be fine with that. I applied that self-talk this morning as my “jackal” element (cf. NVC, which uses a Jackal to stand for that part of us which is aggressive, critical, impatient, etc.) was quite agitated about me not getting into gear. “We” had a “conversation” out loud, which led me eventually to prioritize this researching, writing and sharing about communication, in front of getting into the weekly review of getting things done, and getting things organized.

One of the essential elements of that conversation was to understand what Jackal was saying, feeling, and wanting. I ended up putting the clerical work that he was agitated about after this communication R&D, and at the same time “he” seemed fine about that, because he knows I’ll get to the processing of papers and other matters afterward with renewed enthusiasm.

This R&D process can be seemingly messy, which is to say that when one explores things that are not set in stone or completely understood, which many things are, especially in the realm of psychology and communication and wiggly subjects like that, there is no clear map. That was a long sentence.

So, communicating, and learning about communicating, is a practice, a skill that builds on itself, and that we learn to do over time, along with practicing with other people, and listening and being curious about ourselves.

So what am I doing? I’m learning about, researching, and applying, all that I reasonably can about communicating, influence, compliance, negotiation, and related matters. I’m sharing what I find in person, and with as widespread as I reasonably can. Or unreasonably can. May we have clarifying, caring, curious conversations: “C-ing communication.”

Curious Connecting Communication

I continue my R&D of curious, connecting, candid, clear, caring communication. I enjoy alliteration, and in this case, the words describe some of  the most effective ways of communicating. I’m currently reviewing my Kindle notebook of highlighted passages and my own notes from the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.

I feel fortunate to have discovered this book, which springs from the  same group of people that created the book Getting to Yes and related titles. I read that book a couple of times along the way, and found it very practical and valuable in the sometimes-tricky business of communicating. I’m finding Difficult Conversations even more helpful on a daily basis. I’m also experiencing, as with ideas and practices from Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Rosenberg), that actually communicating well and enjoyably can be challenging, and takes practice. And there are lots of opportunities to practice. May your communicating be creative and congenial.

Plane Crazy

Colorful communicating companions in Costa Rica

Brevity

Brevity | ‘brevədēnoun

Concise and exact use of words in writing or speech.

• shortness of time: the brevity of human life.

PHRASES: 

Brevity is the soul of wit —proverb 

i.e. the essence of a witty statement lies in its concise wording and delivery.[from Shakespeare’s Hamlet ii. ii. 90.]

ORIGIN:

 late 15th cent.: from Old French brievete, from Latin brevitas, from brevis brief.

–From the dictionary on my MacBook: Version 2.2.1 (178)

The “Iterate Fast and Release Often” Approach

I was just listening to Rolf Potts and Tim Ferriss talking about their agonizing processes of writing, and it started me wondering, “Might I actually write something right now and share it, which is to say, put it online at the least and let others read it or not read as they like?” Why not? So, here I am, writing, no? Yes. I read something yesterday that probably applies here, to writing in general maybe, though it was originally directed to businesses. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said,

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-iterate-fast-and-release-often-philosophy-of-entrepreneurship-2009-11#ixzz3bXv1CjWW

Then another idea came into mind: open up GarageBand and start recording songs I’ve written, and do the same thing–publish them, make them available for others to hear. Why not? Might be fun, satisfying, and who knows? Others might enjoy and otherwise benefit from something I create. Ditto for interviews, videos, and whatever other kinds of expressions this one might generate. So, look, ma, I renewed writing with the intention of sharing the ideas. And now, I’m going to schedule a Pomodoro for making music, specifically for getting the wheels turning again on recording to share.

IMG_2113And then I did just that. It had been months and years since I’ve done any recording, so there was some initial befuddlement and frustration. I persisted, and started recording. Then I took a break from that and resumed my actual garage streamlining project. I’ll probably go back and forth.

Down to earth, and lofty

Maria Popova on Writing, Workflow, and Workarounds

I’m tickled that Tim Ferriss  has a podcast. For me it’s soul-nourishing, funny, and a little zany. I’ve enjoyed his eclectic treasure hunting (and finding) of things practical and contextual since I read The 4-Hour Workweek some years back. This interview with  BrainPickings Maria Popova brings yet another wonderful, full-of-wonder ally into this human’s life of curiosity, creating, and caring (my aspirations, at least). Maria relates that she started her blog as a way to explore what she finds interesting and worthwhile. That reminded me that I’d created this blog last year with a similar intention. And here we are, on the skinny left end of the learning curve of WordPress. Isn’t it a lovely ride?