Monday, July 25, 2016

Less is More

Less is more advocates for a minimalist approach to an artistic or aesthetic expression. One might pinpoint the declining number of posts published herein as a minimalist approach to blogging ... 

A philosophy of minimalism is similar to the philosophy of listening in the sense that it is conceptually "empty" but simultaneously "filled in" with thoughts or attributes. 

Speaking (or writing) is only one half of language, in which the power of discourse is highlighted over its necessary compliment: listening or reading. 

In order for one to be 'heard'
another must be listening

Over time society has empowered expressive language with the entire domain of communicating, negating listening.

For some, listening requires a Herculean effort. Most "listen" with the intent of responding. This is based on the idea that one must always know what to say as an expression of self worth. This might be true in certain professional circumstances when one's opinion is being sought, but in interpersonal relationships what we're listening for is the other's intent. 

Individuals with auditory processing challenges do not easily process when someone has asked them a question and is waiting for a response, or when someone has finished speaking and is waiting for them to interject a relevant comment. Over time these individuals end up "second guessing" (because listening intently can be just as exhaustive as speaking non-stop) in order to ease communication. Frequently this can result in "interrupting" the speaker. When an individual is listening so intently that the listener prematurely jumps the gun to speak prior to waiting for speaker's natural pause it can seem as if the individual is disinterested in the subject rather than intensely interested. Knowing your listener helps resolve this potential misunderstanding. 


One does not have to have an auditory processing challenge to accidentally interrupt someone. Some highly charged conversations filled with excitement and fueled by enthusiasm can produce the same interruption effect. 

Similarly, conversations to which little enthusiasm is applied can also result in interrupting. An attempt to "get the conversation over with" so as to move along with one's day indicates a lack of interest in the subject material and results in one person succinctly (sometimes, impatiently) summarizing the other person's premise in order to arrive to the "point" of the matter.  Here, listening has been replaced by processing alone. 


Effective listening starts with concentrated listening combined with knowledge on the subject matter. As such we are selective with whom we share certain information. With strangers, we discuss the weather or non-emotive news headlines. With friends, we discuss our vacations, hobbies and shared interests. With close friends and family, we discuss our lives. With colleagues, we discuss our projects. With ourselves, we discuss all of our discussions prior to having them. 

Just as listening is important to effective communication, so too is knowing what to share with whom and when. Setting the stage for effective communication requires our knowing when to say something and when to remain quiet. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the language experience. 

Relying on the less is more approach can result in a mystery. Others wonder what is being left out and why. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Fascinating Post

*contains emotionally evocative language

In modern English, the term "fascinating" is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as an adjective, something that is "extremely interesting" ...

The Evolution of Fascinating 

Fascinating comes from the Latin fascinum, a representation of a phallus. 

Tiny fasscini were worn by young boys as charms to protect them against the evil eye. In ancient Rome, these phalli were thought to be infused with magical power. 

Today when people claim to be "fascinated" ... 

it generally means that they are captivated by an idea or by an object. While linguists have made countless links to how similarly we and our ancient Greek and Roman ancestors utilize language, "fascinating" is a "funny" example of how language evolves over time. 

The Irony of Fascinating 

Think of the French poet Charles Baudelaire and be instantly transported to his 1857 publication of Les Fleurs du Mal

works characterized as one of the most important (sometimes referred to as "fascinating") contributions to the symbolist and modernist movements. The poems deal with themes relating to decadence and eroticism. 

As irony would have it, Charles Baudelaire having lost his ability to speak from a stroke, except for one phrase he repeated so often that the nuns taking care of him threw him out of their hospital: "Cré nom!" - short for sacré nom de Dieu.  

Today the English equivalent to this word is the historically blasphemous utterance associated with cursing a deity, i.e., "The Lord's name in vain."