On the discourse of being

Words often fail us and prove inadequate in the face of the most profound human experiences, whether tragic, ecstatic, or sublime. And yet it is in those moments, perhaps especially in those moments, that we feel the need to exist for lack of a better word, either to comfort or to share or to participate. But the medium best suited for doing so is the body, and it is the body that is, of necessity, abstracted from so much of our digital interaction with the world. With our bodies we may communicate without speaking. It is a communication by being and perhaps also doing, rather than by speaking.

Of course, embodied presence may seem, by comparison to its more disembodied counterparts, both less effectual and more fraught with risk. Embodied presence enjoys none of the amplification that technologies of communication afford. It cannot, after all, reach beyond the immediate place and time. And it is vulnerable presence. Embodied presence involves us with others, often in unmanageable, messy ways that are uncomfortable and awkward. But that awkwardness is also a measure of the power latent in embodied presence.

Embodied presence also liberates us from the need to prematurely reach for rational explanation and solutions — for an answer. If I can only speak, then the use of words will require me to search for sense. Silence can contemplate the mysterious, the absurd, and the act of grace, but words must search for reasons and fixes. This is, in its proper time, not an entirely futile endeavor; but its time is usually not in the aftermath. In the aftermath of the tragic, when silence and “being with” and touch may be the only appropriate responses, then only embodied presence will do. Its consolations are irreducible. This, I think, is part of the meaning of the Incarnation: the embrace of the fullness of our humanity.

Words and the media that convey them, of course, have their place, and they are necessary and sometimes good and beautiful besides. But words are often incomplete, insufficient. We cannot content ourselves with being the “disincarnate users” of electronic media that McLuhan worried about, nor can we allow the assumptions and priorities of disincarnate media to constrain our understanding of what it means to be human in this world.

via The Frailest Thing.

On dressing for success

Dress for success? Sure – nothing wrong with making a good impression!

Just remember that looking confident is not a substitute for being competent. You don’t want to be, as the saying goes, all hat and no cattle.

Expert on nonverbal communication dies at 95

Anyone working in the field of communications (theoretical or applied) should be familiar with his work.

His website has links to his books.

Edward Hall – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com.

Palms turned upwards

The meaning of the gesture is clear whether it’s with one upturned palm, the “Brother, can you spare a dime” stance of beggars around the world, or with the two-palm version favored by preachers who reach out to beseech divine assistance. Or by exasperated Hollywood directors who rise from their chairs with upturned palms to implore their actors, “Work with me, people!”

The upraised palm is the automatic accompaniment to an apology or an alibi. As you try blaming the computer for eating your homework, you shrug your shoulders and expose your palms as a show of helplessness. What could I do? How could I know?

Primatologists claim that gestures and speech evolved simultaneously into language. And that the upturned palm is

one of the oldest and most widely understood signals in the world. It’s
activated by neural circuits inherited from ancient reptiles that
abased themselves before larger animals. Chimps and other apes, notably
humans, adapted it to ask not just for food, but also for more abstract
forms of help, creating a new kind of signal that some researchers
believe was the origin of human language.

The whole story is at A World of Eloquence in an Upturned Palm – New York Times

Do you understand what I’m doing?

For six years, it was a perquisite that the Home Depot chief executive, Robert Nardelli, could not do without: a catered lunch for his top deputies, served daily on the 22nd floor of the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

But several days into his tenure as Nardelli’s successor, Frank Blake quietly abolished the free meal, telling senior executives to take the elevator down to the first floor and buy their own lunches with the rank and file in the cafeteria, according to an employee.

It is the kind of symbolic gesture that has come to define Blake’s short time as head of the largest U.S. home improvement retailer as he tries to distance himself from the tumultuous reign of Nardelli, who was ousted several weeks ago over his sky-high pay package and authoritarian style.

Blake’s message could not be any less subtle: the era of the imperial chief executive at Home Depot is over.

To underscore the point, Blake has distributed an old company icon, called the Inverted Pyramid, that lays out the retailer’s hierarchy, with customers and employees above the chief executive on the bottom. (IHT).

See also a NYT article.