Common Ground

The question is not being, if or to, but rather when and what or why and where and how.

If one does this instead of that, results may shift by threads, or swelling clouds of snow. But time, as lord of all, crafts here and now at whim.

And what of this is relevant? What is fluff, and what’s concrete?

A crack, a stone, a thought, a breath, the need to move, progress?

It seems the center’s gone beyond not holding to full collapse. But those corners remaining, can they sustain our weight without it?

Years ago, I saw a man on a corner far from mine. Because there was no ground between us, we got by on shallow waves, our certainties preserved by distance until one day a spot appeared no larger than a tender seed and we set our feet upon it. And from each common yes no maybe, it grew.

Soon it will be spring and time to plant. That, I think, is being; that, I think is when and what and why and where and urgently, mindfully how.


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Gallery of the Louvre — Samuel Morse

I was looking for a painting, an abstract really, to explain my weeks of absence. None of them were messy enough. Not even Pollock’s. So I started paging through pointillists, and surrealists, and vast scenes of hunts and portraits of serious men at serious undertakings and found my attention straying to the barking dog next door.

Dogs bark for any number of reasons—a pedestrian walks by, a squirrel leaps into a tree, a neighbor’s cat tries to trespass on their turf, or they just want inside. Then they stop barking when the pedestrian is gone, the squirrel bounds out of sight, the cat slinks away, or the door opens for them.

Fortunately, there’s rarely more than one dog barking at a time around here.

For years, I was fascinated by Morse’s Louvre masterpiece, but now it just seems messy, a fascinating irony from someone who devised a method of communicating with dots and dashes, dits and dahs. I think when there’s that much going on it’s hard to focus, know what is most deserving of attention.

So, it’s not that I haven’t had the urge to bark; I just haven’t known what to bark at first. There are simply too many pedestrians, squirrels, cats, and doors.


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The other day someone told me I was living in the past, and reminded me, quite archly, what year it is.

Let me back up….

This someone called because they were under the assumption that matters of emotional delicacy could be handled via text messaging. When they realized, much too late in the “conversation,” that messages had been misinterpreted, they became frantic.

Backing up again….

I do text. It is a quick, efficient way to check in on people, particularly in emergencies, provide updates about any number of situations when necessary, and convey brief, time-sensitive messages. It has its uses.

But getting to my caller. They read me the “conversation.” It was long. It was rambling, at times incoherent. Worse, the only tone that came across was anger.

Another digression….

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was this: “the most important thing you can ever know about technology is when NOT to use it.”

…which was the point I tried to make on the phone to my caller…

… who then gave me a shrill lecture on how people communicate in 2019.

So I said this:

There are times texting is appropriate, and times it is not. There are times it accomplishes exactly what it needs to, and times it sucks you in and drops you into a giant sinkhole, leaving no way of escape.

Texting is not a substitute for communication which demands vocal interaction.

You can learn a great deal when you LISTEN to people on the phone. You may not see their faces, but the timbre and changes in their voices, slowness or rapidity with which they respond, speaks volumes, and allows you to effectively shape what you say. And, personal, voice-to-voice communication affords one other critical advantage: it allows interruption. If someone is misinterpreting, or going off on a tangent, or getting hostile or breaking down, you can short-circuit them, call them on their behavior, or provide the type of comfort they need. NONE of that is possible in a text.


I’d rather be able to communicate meaningfully and productively. I’d rather have a sense of a person’s humanity.

I’d rather be a dinosaur.

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