Evelyn Rodriguez is in very expansive mode over at Crossroads Dispatches, and recently wrote about her meeting with a marketing guy at gotomedia.com, whose tagline is:
Ask, and people will guess at what they do. Watch them, and you’ll know.
And she quotes Gay Talese as saying that his interviews with people are initially quite meaningless, until he has observed them for awhile. So to some extent, he says, interviewing people who speak a different language is no harder than interviewing those who speak your own. Most of the meaning is picked up in the observation, and most of the journalist’s value is in reporting what was observed, not what was said.
This, of course, is Cultural Anthropology 101. From the point of view of a business, the key to disruptive innovation is social insight. The minute you discover something important about your customers that no one else has picked up on, and that perhaps the customers themselves have not articulated, your competitors should be very, very afraid.
I see this in my observations in nature as well. The squirrels learned how to defeat my baffles through one part trial-and-error, one part creative thinking, and one part observing, paying attention to every aspect of the challenge at hand. The ritual circular sniffing of dogs when they meet is merely an introduction to a profound process of mutually paying attention. I sometimes think our language is to some extent a distraction from paying attention, or even an excuse for not paying attention to people we are in the company of. Contrast that with the behaviours of new lovers, who are observing and paying attention to each other to an almost excruciating degree. They pick up, and even neutral observers nearby pick up, non-verbal signals and nuances of communication as subtle as the dilation of the pupils and the rhythm of breathing, the more complex rise and fall of voice and the non-verbal gurgles and trills between words — expressions rarely apparent in ‘normal’ human spoken conversation because there’s no point in them if no one is paying attention.
I believe instinctively that all animal communications are that rich and that subtle, because they are so much better at paying attention than we are. They must perceive us as unbelievably insensitive, almost unconscious by comparison. Yet we call them ‘dumb’ animals.
I recently wrote something that I think (immodestly) is quite profound in Jane Crow Journal where there was some light-hearted discussion of what women (and men) really want. I said:
I think what most of us want, male and female, human and other, is attention and appreciation. Everything else is derivative of those two things.
It’s really all about attention, and paying attention. The attention we pay to others, and that others pay to us, defines us, far more than our appearance or our name. And how can we appreciate what someone (a life partner, a business partner, a customer, an employee, a friend, a foe) is about and has to offer unless and until we pay attention to her, really listen and observe with (as much as is humanly possible) no judgement, no personal filters or frames impeding. And once weve paid enough attention that we really understand that person (or for that matter, that creature of any species), how can we not appreciate her?
That’s the simplest explanation I can provide for how we have lost touch with nature, and why we see the environment as ‘other’ and fail to appreciate its immense importance. We have lost the ability to pay attention to it, as language and other blunter tools of learning and appreciation have replaced observation and paying attention in human behaviour. And when we no longer appreciate it, we are content to allow it to be destroyed, until one day we can’t observe and appreciate it anymore. “Oh it always seems to be, we don’t what we’ve got ’til its gone”, as Joni Mitchell put it.
Things are the way they are for a reason. Watch, listen, observe, pay attention, and you will know that reason. Most genius, most innovation, most emotion, I am convinced, stems from this ‘first-hand’ knowledge.
This is the skill, more than any other, that I need to learn.
Photo from the Ontario SPCA.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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