March 24, 2009

The Golden Age of Re-Engagement From this month's Utne Reader, a nice collection of essays about disconnection and disengagement (and re-connection and re-engagement) in modern US society. The Lonely American, The Art of a Lively Conversation, All in the Neighborhood, and One Nation: Indivisible. There's a lot of good stuff to think about here, and there are plenty of things in there that would still be relevant to you non-US monkeys out there.
  • Hmm. I was hoping that the title wouldn't show up in the actual post. Anyone care to hope me on how that's done?
  • It's a little tricky, if you don't have a URL in the first part of your post. Now that I think about it, I can't remember how. I'll get back to you after dinner.
  • Thanks tracicle! It's not a huge deal, but it does bug me a little. Hope your dinner is tasty!
  • Okay, so no matter what, you will have something bold at the front. If you leave the URL field blank, but put some text in the "URL description" field, it will be in place of the title. If I don't want the first thing to be the URL, I'll start my sentence in the URL description and continue it into the Link Description. Here's an example. Curious George posts are often done this way too. Oh, and dinner was homemade margherita pizza. Yum! On with the comments relating to the post!
  • They said in the Art of a Lively Conversation, "…most of us are really looking for an exchange of vulnerable material." Yet we don't want to be like the one legged chicken that gets pecked to death in a Werner Herzog movie. No, we want validation of our pain. Which is why I've seldom been more satisfied with a conversation than I was yesterday at my hand therapy session. All of us trying to recover from broken wrists. Most of them *old hands* at this, and I'm the new kid. I should get a patent on my scar, which looks like a rocket ascending to the fireball on the palm of my hand where it met the gravel. At first I thought a butcher might have stitched me up better, but now I'm PROUD of it. I survived going over the top of the handle bars without crushing my bare head. Less remarkable than the lady's with four radiating lines reaching up into her crushed hand. The tender feelings come spontaneously. And now she'd fallen again last night, with her splint off. The old habit of pronging out the hand to stop the fall was still in place, unfortunately. Now she was back to studying Pain 101 again… (I'm hoping Blue Horse's foot is doing much better.)
  • From the first essay: “Being neighborly used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbors means not bothering them.” From the book that I am currently reading, My Guantanamo Diary: "When they first came to America, [late 70's from Afghanistan] Baba-jaan and Mumma [the author's parents] were desperately homesick... they saw a lonely side to America, where people call before they visit. They were used to an endless stream of guests ringing the doorbell unannounced. Baba-jaan often reminisced about how he would come home from school, put his things down, and walk from house to house visiting friends and relatives." I find this to be a curious and insightful observation to American "culture". I think it's spot-on, and, as the essays suggest, moving towards a more "disconnected" society. When I was a college student, I would drive back home on the weekends - passing through a very rural and desolate stretch of farmland - and noticed how the locals would go out of their way to stop and wave as I passed by. After several years of this common drive, I became quite familiar with people I would spot along the route. I realized that I had more engaging communication with them from simple hand gestures in-passing, than I did with the neighbors that lived in the adjoining lot. Thanks for the post, wander. I used to subscribe to Utne years ago, and it's nice to see they have a nice online presence.
  • >>They were used to an endless stream of guests ringing the doorbell unannounced. Thank god I'm not in Afghanistan in the late 70's!
  • That was one notable downer for me about living in California, smt: I was bothered by the fact that you couldn't just go and hang out at someone's place, or pop over for coffee with a friend. I found it difficult to really get to know people because I didn't understand what replaced that informal visiting. I don't think anything actually has replaced it in US culture.
  • Dan Folkus: Thanks for sharing your story. I definitely agree with the validation of pain, and I also think there's something to be said for seeing that you're not alone, that people you know, and people you don't, have felt the same as you at some point. I hope your hands get better. sugarmilktea: That part stood out to me, too. Thanks for sharing that excerpt from the book. I may have to look into it at some point. I have always wanted to live somewhere where people felt it was okay just to drop by. The only place I've ever encountered that was at college, in the dorms, where people would have no problem just dropping in, and all you had to do was leave your door open. I went to college in a small town. When I moved out of the dorms to a house off campus, I noticed people didn't stop by spontaneously very often, even if my house was only a few blocks away from school. When I moved to the city and got an apartment in a busy part of town, I hoped that I would get to know my neighbors enough to be able to stop by. I ended up only meeting two of them, and the rest of the people in the building I could've passed on the street and had no idea who they were. I just never saw them. I am always on the search for the sense of community, which seems far harder to find than it should be in America today. I have always wondered where this informal visiting exists. I may have been born to late to have experienced this back when it actually was a part of American culture, or it may also have had to do with my parents not knowing that many people close by, or that I grew up in a suburb. It's part of why I really want to live in a different country or culture for a while, one where that sense of community is still around. tracicle: "I don't think anything actually has replaced it in US culture." I agree with you on that. If there was a replacement and no one bothered to tell me, I wish someone would let me know. I ask this out of hope, curiosity, and possible future reference; have you found that sense of informal visiting and community in NZ? I also wonder how technology has affected this concept. In the past, if you wanted to know how someone was doing, you either had to visit, call, or write. Now, you can call them anytime, send them a text, e-mail them, check their blog or facebook page (if they have them), and so on. I think that visiting with someone is far better than just passively checking in on them, but I wonder if that ability can end up superceding the idea to just go visit.
  • wander: yes. I'm a kiwi born and raised (on the playground was where I spent most of my days). We are very informal about catching up with friends - we have a core group of friends and neighbours whose doors are always open, although we sometimes call in advance to see if they're home and not busy. More often than not, now that I have a school-aged child, we'll end up going from school to another family's house for coffee in the afternoons.
  • tracicle: That's good to know, really, for a lot of reasons. It's reassuring to know that people still visit, and it gives me hope that I can find it out there someday. New Zealand has long been on my list of places to visit, but now I might have to add it as a possible place to live. Also, I never knew whether you were from NZ or just moved there, but now I do. Your Fresh Prince reference (nicely done I might add) reminded me of this.
  • Ha!