15 May 1997
Why and Wherefore of Communication
- / -
There are myriads of people communicating on the planet -- possibly myriads
of entities communicating elsewhere. A lot of the communication is like grooming
behaviour in certain groups of animals -- very comforting and essential to socialization,
irrespective of the content. It is so good to feel well-groomed!
Many people craft their communications to convey particular meanings. Just
what are we endeavouring to do in this process? A lot of effort goes into persuading
others of the validity or merit of what is conveyed. Why seek so desperately
to ensure that others agree? Why endeavour to evoke their appreciation or interest?
If these ends are achieved, then what? What then follows? What can be built
on the agreement? Or is it a question of maintaining good fellow-feeling --
an analogue to grooming behaviour?
With the immense numbers of communication pathways, why feel any need to comprehend
what one has not yet encountered? Is this a sense of insecurity -- or a residue
of curiosity to be cultivated by existential tourism? One can easily set aside
any pull to explore simple grooming exchanges. But supposing groups of people
are creating or configuring new patterns of meaning? Why might I feel impelled
or drawn to understand what they are working on? What is this "newness"
that draws me -- and what is the kind that I would be happy to avoid exposure
So can I think of some noosphere -- a global configuration of some kind --
on which communicators are positioned, with lines between them corresponding
to communications of a particular content or quality? All the communication
busy-ness then travels these pathways. Is this then the moving lifeblood of
planetary consciousness? It could be incredibly beautiful to observe. But maybe
tiresome after a while?
This image is however too linear. As such it does not carry all the creativity.
But suppose that noosphere globe also holds the emergent patterns of newly created
relationships and insights? It now flickers with patterns of collective creativity
-- constantly shifting patterns. Some would have coherence and permanence, becoming
richer and more elaborate over time. This would be the case with the new discoveries
in physics and microbiology. Others would emerge and disappear like fashions
in the arts. All fascinating to observe -- for a while?
But of course, it may be the "observation" process that is inherently
boring. However, I can also participate and make patterns too. I can exchange
them with others. Maybe I can concentrate on persuading them of the inherent
superiority of my patterns -- in some cases imposing them over the desired patterns
of others? Why would I want to do any of this? Maybe I could focus on helping
others to make their patterns -- a sort of pattern midwife. Why would I want
to do that? There are plenty of ways in which patterns can emerge.
Then there is the quest for the ultimate mega-pattern, the keystone of everything,
the philosopher's stone, the Rosetta stone, the Theory of Everything. Do I want
to join the various gold-rush efforts to pursue such insight? What does it feel
like to experience those engaged in such a Nobel pursuit? Is it like a sperm
endeavouring to be the one that fertilizes the egg -- triumphing over 69 million
others as failures in the fallopian Olympics? What meaning would such insight
have for me? As much as the Theory of Relativity?
But there is something beyond simple understandings of the observer-participant
role. There is a way in which these can lock understanding into the encounter,
whether as participant or observer. Within this constrained perspective, it
makes relatively little difference how ultimate is the pattern encountered.
By contrast, there is something about the encounter with a dewdrop, a particular
face, or a configuration of events, which can be totally transformative. These
too can be as meaningful as the philosopher's stone or the Theory of Everything
-- and possibly more so. But encounters with all of them could equally be totally
Is transformation then the thing to pursue -- chasing individuation and personal
transmogrification? Taking to the initiation superhighway with all its gatekeepers
and tollgates! Or even its collective equivalent, group transformation, or its
wider cultural analogues -- on some developmental pathway? What is this pressure
to transform -- is the next form inherently better than this current one?
But if transformation is an inherently good thing, why would I seek to communicate
my understanding to others -- even against their immediate wishes? Am I taking
responsibility for their best interests? Or am I seeking to bulldoze their rainforests
in the interest of my supermarket and golf course?
Maybe the justification for communication emerges more clearly from an understanding
of nourishment -- which is associated with transformation through digestion
(in its most fundamental sense). If I nourish, or am nourished, through communication
then this would then be enough. But is this simply another trap -- the existential
couch potato trap, nourished by insightful peanuts and TV -- shortly to be able
to message significant others about received significance! Is existential obesity
the next challenge?
Does the Buddhist notion of detachment frame appropriateness in a more fruitful
way? Surely not when that understanding has to be continually reinforced by
so much iconography and ritual?
Back then to the present moment. Detachment from all of the above, plus detachment
from detachment? What then is the art of spontaneity? Why and how would one
seek to make it more than an individual endeavour? Is community an individual
endeavour -- whereby one creates communal meaning out of whatever one encounters?