Friday, March 05, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Move to WordPress

My blog, Conversations with Calliope, can now be seen at

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Sliding Otter News 2/27/2010

Everybody's Talking At Me

Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying.

~Sandi Patti~

I don’t notice it so much at home, but recently I traveled to the Caribbean. Quite frequently I saw people plugged into various electronic devices while ignoring or not even noticing people sitting right next to them. Were they looking for information anonymously? Keeping in touch with others by text messages? Making sure they don’t miss anything? Just passing the time? Who knows?

In a recent AARP Magazine article, David Dudly, the editor of Urbanite magazine, decried “a nation of hyper-connected hermits, thumbs furiously working our BlackBerrys, each of us a master of an ever-smaller personal universe.” He goes on to observe that our communication with each other is more focused on accomplishing something than it is on enhancing our relationships with each other.

Dudly also cites Jacqueline Olds’ observation that the central paradox in life today is “simultaneous connection and isolation.” We can be in touch with others no matter where we are in the world but our electronic notes leave out our emotions, gestures and tone of voice. We can reach each other any time we want but in the process become farther away from each other’s “real self”.

Once we talked with each other just for the joy of doing so. Children sat with their grandparents on the front porch learning about the old days. Men waiting in barber shops shared their opinions about the weather, politics or local gossip while women in beauty salons did the same. Friends gathered at each others’ houses for dinner or parties on a regular basis.

I’m not suggesting that we have lost the ability to communicate. Perhaps we just don’t exercise our skills in this area as often as we once did. On my trip, I had quite a few pleasant conversations with people I had never met and will likely never see again. Looking back on these conversations, I found them more superficial than I would have liked. I disappointed myself by not sharing more of me than I did. Not that I had to stay on the surface but it seems the thing to do in this day and age. Pleasant recollections of my conversations remain but I don’t feel like I shared anything of substance with those I met.

I fear that this trend locks us in our own worlds and keeps us from knowing about the lives of those we encounter just once or on a regular basis. I wonder about our relationships. Marriage, parenting, friendship and society as a whole become tainted.  They strain with the increasingly clipped and limited snippets of information we share with others, leaving our lives increasingly alone and lonely.

Life Lab Lessons  

  • What do you share with others and how do you do it?
  • How many people know the real you?
  • What would your relationships be like if you made them a priority?
  • Put aside your devices for a few hours and try talking directly to others instead.
  • Share something personal with someone else and try learning something personal in return. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Back from My Travels

(Fan Palm- St. Kitts)

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I haven't heard from you in some time other than you last newsletter.
JOE: I told you I would be traveling.
CALLIOPE: Tell me about it.
JOE: I was on a cruise to the Southern Caribbean. We stayed a night in San Juan and then visited St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Kitts, Dominica, and Barbados.
CALLIOPE: Sounds like great fun. Did you get anything done while you were gone.
JOE: I read a couple books. But I only wrote in my journal once and decided not to take my laptop with me. They have a computer center on board but I couldn't tell you where.
CALLIOPE: A real vacation. Did you meet any literary types?
JOE: I dined with a group of twelve, one of whom has published a book. Unfortunately the din in the dining room was not conducive to intimate conversations beyond shouting across the table.
CALLIOPE: So you didn't discuss craft with him.
JOE: I didn't. The only creative endeavor was photography of our activities and adventures.
CALLIOPE: Glad to have you back.
JOE: I'm glad to be back except for the cold. I suffered a sixty degree drop between the San Juan and Rochester airports. Brrr.
CALLIOPE: Spring is coming.
JOE: None too soon for me. Talk with you later

Monday, February 15, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Sl;iding Otter News 2/13/2010

Discovering and Managing Our Avatars

Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.
~Jake Sully, Character in Avatar 

The word avatar originally appeared in Hinduism where it means an appearance or manifestation of one of the deities. In recent years, it has come to mean a computer identity. In the movie Avatar, it refers to a way of occupying another body, grown specifically for that purpose.

In the movie, a somewhat cocky paraplegic ex-marine signs up to take part in a ruthless, profit motivated mission to uproot a civilization on another planet. His personal motivation is to prove he is still worth something despite his physical limitations. In the process he takes on an identity which he initially finds awkward but which eventually challenges him to become a compassionate hero for an indigenous race.

I have long thought that most of us also have various avatars through which we present ourselves to the world. We usually show people one main identity by which they recognize us. In different circumstances we might appear quite different to others, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. I remember attending several funerals where I discovered relatives of mine had a whole other side, in their case making their lives more substantial than I had thought.

Generally well adjusted people might contemplate or attempt suicide in response to a financial crisis they consider impossible to overcome. Usually placid parents can become downright fierce in response to seeing their children threatened. Sexual predators can seem quite ordinary most of the time. Those who know them in most circumstances find it hard to believe that they are capable of such acts. Some people can appear quite easygoing in some settings and act as tyrants in others on a regular basis.

Who are we really? Does one of our avatars represent our basic personality and the others hide who we really are? Or is each of our appearances a basic part of ourselves? If we act in ways we later regret, we might try to offer the explanation, “I wasn’t myself.” We did not really intend to act the way we did. Court cases have turned on whether circumstances can affect responsibility for our actions.

Sometimes we are well aware of what leads us to act in certain ways. Sometimes we surprise ourselves as well as others by our actions and have no sensible explanation for our behavior. Everyone can be thrown off balance from time to time. If we find ourselves frequently acting in ways which embarrass us, maybe it is time to find out why.

Life Lab Lessons

• Do you have times when you don’t act the way you would like to?
• Do you know what leads you to act that way?
• If so, see how you can avoid or minimize the effect of troubling circumstances.
• If you are stuck, ask people who care about you for their input.
• If you are still stuck, consider talking with a professional counselor.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Avatars

Parrot Avatar

(Parrot Avatar)

JOE: Good m0rning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. How have you been?
JOE: Fine. I'm working on a new column/newsletter.
CALLIOPE: I thought you just finished one.
JOE: I did but I will be doing a little traveling and have to get one in before I leave.
CALLIOPE: What's it about?
JOE: Avatars.
JOE: I went to see the movie yesterday and got to thinking about Hindu avatars.
CALLIOPE: Where did you go with that theme?
JOE; I considered how most people display a variety 0f avatars under different circumstances.
CALLIOPE: Sounds interesting.
JOE: It is. I'll post it when I get back.
CALLIOPE: Where are you going?
JOE: Someplace warm. I'll let you know about it when I get back.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Deep Freeze

(Winter Post)

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I trust you had a good week at GO ART!
JOE: I did. I was quite busy working on revisions to their website. I had to dust off my Dreamweaver skills.
CALLIOPE: Are you making progress?
JOE: I am but it's nice to have a break today.
CALLIOPE: You haven't said anything about your writing lately.
JOE: I finished my review of Marital Property and have my three readers at work.
CALLIOPE: Then what?
JOE: They are proofing as well as commenting on the manuscript. After I get their input I will decide how to proceed.
CALLIOPE: Are you considering a run at traditional publishing this time?
JOE: I am considering it. We shall see.
CALLIOPE: What are you doing while you wait for their input?
JOE: Today I will continuing work on another project. Talk with you Monday.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- An Equal Benefit

(Footsteps in the Sand)
Inside every misfortune lies the seed of an at least equal benefit~ Napoleon Hill

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. What are you up to today?
JOE: Just thinking of my column and newsletter due this weekend.
CALLIOPE: What's the topic?
JOE: I have been pondering Haiti and what good can come of it. I don't understand why such an impoverished country should bear this burden.
CALLIOPE: Did you come up with any answers?
JOE: Of course not. The only answers I have heard is that it is their own fault or God's. Neither makes any sense to me.
CALLIOPE: Do you think there is an explanation?
JOE: No. I don't think it's a matter for logic.
CALLIOPE: So why think about it at all?
JOE: I wonder what good can come of it.
CALLIOPE: Any ideas about this.
JOE: Yes. I think it is an opportunity for the rest of the world to come together as a community to help fellow people in need.
CALLIOPE: A good way to look at it.
JOE: At least I can live with that. Talk with you on Friday.