My sister had an art opening last weekend. It was in a gallery that is part of a reopened museum, so local dignitaries came by to participate.
The local congressman saw her work and liked it. He was interrupted for a greet, but came back and followed up, expressing empathy for the challenge of losing two parents. He touched the scarves she printed, and then worried that he shouldn’t touch.
He actually engaged her work, and that felt good to her. That attention was energizing, and it is definitely not something she gets from her long time friend, the balloon clown.
I have been supporting the balloon clown with a new phone for him, a used smartphone on Page Plus. It’s really his first foray into using a computer. He was here Saturday, after I found a billing problem and had support re-initialize the phone, and then updated all the software and changed his voicemail to Google Voice, to give him transcriptions, visual voicemail and more. He failed. Put it back, now.
Watching someone shut down because they decide that they can’t understand what you are saying is one of the most frustrating things that I have to go through. Once, I went to an old guy who decided he couldn’t understand, so I told him a simple story, and he couldn’t get it, but when I told his wife, who knows nothing about computers, the same story, she got it. She wasn’t blocking, hadn’t decided in advance that I was incomprehensible.
Balloon clown runs his phone like he runs his mind. He deletes everything. Actually holding some old mail or texts just seems like a problem, not a way to have bits to connect in the future. He knew he couldn’t ever possibly understand, so why even bother trying?
I remember when I did a procurement for a microcomputer. I had a tech explain to me about the ‘nix implementation on a specific machine, a very technical discussion about how they used vforks rather than forks and so on. I didn’t understand the explanation, but I went back to the committee, warned them not to stop me or ask questions, and just repeated what he had said to me all in a rush. They laughed when I finished, impressed with the performance, and our internals guy said he understood the message. I didn’t understand, but I knew enough to carry it to someone who did.
“What meaning does that hold for you?” a counsellor asked me. “I don’t know,” I replied, “but enough that I brought it back to here.” The only way I survived the boundary breaking hell of taking care of my parents was to commit to working the process, even when I didn’t understand the outcome or like the demands. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do a lot of off-line processing, just accepting the experience and then holding the data until I have time to work it through.
My big lesson for last Saturday was that I felt empowered when working with someone who worked to open to me, to hear and engage.
My big lesson for this Saturday was that I felt frustrated and enraged when working with someone who worked to close to me, to decide I was just incomprehensible noise.
“You are 4G and I am 1G,” clown told me. Just for the record, he meant I was 4G and he was 1X. Ah, CDMA. Ah, Balloon Clown.
My sister had a pro, one of 435 serving members of the US House Of Representatives, actually engage her art and her life for a while last Friday, and it was memorable and potent. It wasn’t just a rote display, it was real curiosity, and it felt good.
I have been watching the people who put on the StartUp Weekend in the area and how they engaged our project and my sharing.
On the first night, I sat with a college student who was doing marketing. He loved the Twitter.
“Five words,” he told me. “That’s all you have, five words.”
In an information economy, attention is the ultimate currency. We built our pitch to be engaging, so it compelled attention. The judges responded. And I have seen the trailer. The film crew obviously loved our filled whiteboard, packed with lots of bits of data, so many ideas and facts, that we pulled from to build our winning pitch. Attention built from deep thought, not just slogans.
But the organizers in the last week, well, they are more twitter than curiosity. They want what we used to call the “net net,” the quick code that goes bang in people who have decided that awareness is overrated, that attention is not really feasible, that bang is all.
Opening to nuance is just something that most people have decided is not worth their time. Bang or throw it out, and don’t keep around what you can’t instantly understand, even if that lack of understanding is based on your internal blocks to awareness and growth.
I know why I don’t promote this blog, why I have never promoted this blog. This isn’t a bang, bang, tweet, twit kind of thing, it’s much more like a serialized memoir that demands engagement and attention to get how my considered and thoughtful retelling of story illuminates your life and your view of the world. I am, no doubt, a process queen, valuing deep curiosity and profound engagement. I love the taut epigram, sure, but believe the best only come out of hard-won knowledge, not the limits of a 140 character edit box.
Open your mind and heart.
That’s the slogan I value.