When was the last time:
• you were truly engaged, interested, and even fascinated by a discussion?
• you left a meeting energized and actually thrilled about an exchange of ideas?
• you learned something new, about the world or yourself?
• you actually listened to someone else, and thought about what was being shared before taking any action?
I would venture to guess that its been a very long time… if perhaps never for many of us.
How often to we cringe to see two talking heads spouting their own agendas at each other while their actual dialog is nonexistent? How much time have we wasted in “meetings” and “Webinars” when we don’t even hear what is being said? We often sit there with our laptops open, paying only half-attention as a voice drones on somewhere in the nether regions of our consciousness. Is that time well-spent?
Enter “Notes on Dialogue” by Stringfellow Barr, former President of Saint John’s College, which is best known for its unusual curriculum, the Great Books Program, based on discussion of works from the Western philosophic, scientific and literary canon. Students at the college are responsible for their own education. Tutors are there only to guide, cajole and redirect as necessary. There are no “lectures” but the main process of learning takes place in a seminar format, that relies on discussion as outlined below.
“Notes on Dialogue” is a short treatise that lays out the groundwork for Seminar behavior at the college, and is a shining example of true education at its best. It provides profound support for the group, the individual, and the collective consciousness that can be developed through mutual respect and consideration. I submit here that the guidelines presented within this document are well worth considering in professional settings in addition to this academic environment. The true sharing of ideas and of valuable collaboration are dependent on how close we can get to this ideal.
I strongly suggest you read the entire document, but to whet your appetite, here are a few digested guidelines from the document.
• Brevity stimulates dialectic – the effort to be too complete is often self-defeating.
• The imaginative and the unexpected are frequent ingredients of Socrates’ style, and Irony can go farther in making a point than long-winded explanations.
• Interrupting a speaker is forbidden, but a quick question can help redirect conversation
• The will of “self insistence” gives way to the will to learn over time.
• In dialectic, “participational democracy” consists in everyone listening intently; it does not consist in “equal time”. (for speaking)
• It does not matter who’s mouth gets used by the dialectical process, provided all are listening intently.
• The name of the game is not instructing one’s fellows, or even persuading them, but thinking with them and trusting the argument to lead to understanding.
• When free minds seek together for greater understanding, they tend to move, as the mind of Socrates so characteristically moved – with playfulness and a sense of the comic.
• The truly relevant jest is never out of order so long as we can pursue our dialogue with high seriousness and with relevant playfulness.
I was having a very interesting conversation with my friend JeanAnn- one of those where we both had more things to say than could come out in normal conversation… like fast ping-pong, watching those Chinese guys go crazy, hardly even using the table at all.
We were talking about advertising and marketing. Who isn’t nowadays? Even my neighbor Dan wants to stand in my driveway and talk about advertising and marketing, as if we’re all trying to guess the outcome of March Madness.
Today is different than before, but how? What WAS advertising? Traditional, not exactly… Tactical… kinda… Offline, yes, but the new religion still can be offline too… We kept going back and forth with it, until I held up two drink coasters… Slapping one down on the table top: THIS one is the New advertising, and THIS one is… is… FRANK – slap. It all came to a halt, as soon as we had a name.
What do we see when we look at Frank? Frank is P.T. Barnum, Darin Stevens, The Subservient Chicken, and Don Draper. It’s all top-down, “You Shall Love This because we said so” mentality- it has a prescriptive feel to it. “We’ll tell you what to think… ” Every cog and gear needs to function for the greater system to work. It’s Fritz Laing’s Metropolis. Consumers have a role, but it is to CONSUME, in the downward flow of ideas.
Is it that simple? A one-way flow of ideas is so 2006, man.
The fact that we struggle with it points to what a large shift it is. Is it possible to comprehend when your glacier is moving? What goes through the mind of a penguin when the ground shakes?
It seems that Frank’s got some news coming. If only we could get clients to let go of that old fashioned mentality. What’s it going to take?
I have started taking orders for the Porsche VAS. Check it out here
It’s such a relief to me that we have a President-Elect who actually can articulate thoughts in English, and is willing to share information with us directly, speaking to us as humans. I am not sure I agree with everything he says, (bailouts) but at least he is acting like a leader. What a difference from the last 8 years.
Watch the Obama video here
We start actual performances Friday November 7, 2008. We have had all the stagings, rehearsals, and dress-rehearsals we’re going to get, so its go-time on Friday.
I am the second on the right... see me?
This was the concept sketch for the Keller
The Keller Auditorium in Portland was a very old theater, built around the turn of the century, and word has it that it was subject to a massive renovation in the mid 60s. This was more than the theater, but involved the surrounding streets as well. Market street got a level change, and the theater itself was pushed backwards across much of Second Avenue. If you observe the neighborhood outside, you can see it is part of a complex of buildings that were built at similar times, and there is a very large fountain complex as well across the street. The entire neighborhood to the South has that “urban renewal” feel to it, with planned park walks, 60′s era high-rise apartment blocks etc. Its actually a bit of a lonely place. (60′s vintage urban renewal always seems to create alienating spaces – parks that no one likes, with too much over-designed concrete etc… but that’s another story) Local word has it that whole ethnic neighborhoods in that area fell to the bulldozer and city planners back then.
All of this shows in the fabric of the Keller. The audience spaces are showing a little threadbare, and the lobby is a mess, with not enough room for people during intermission, and always a line at either of the two bathrooms…Now I know what women are always complaining about at ball games…
Backstage, the concrete and brick walls of the hidden staircases and back rooms tell a story of many re-fittings. There are concrete castings from the original building that show the wood grain of the original fir forms. There are sections of random bricks, cinder blocks an steel re-enforcing rods, all stitching the place together like a very old pair of jeans. Every surface is the same color of off-white. The staircases are narrow and utilitarian, and wind up 5 stories, each level having a specific role for our production. Its’ all neat and orderly, but with a confining comfort.
A couple of months ago, my wife put a challenge in front of me: She gets emails about acting opportunities around town, and the Portland Opera was looking for Supernumeraries (Supers) for their upcoming production of Fidelio.
“What’s a Super again?” Apparently Supers are the moving human scenery in the background, that make up the crowd scenes, or are somehow used to enhance the show. We had been to several seasons of operas, so I had often wondered who all those people were… as in Norma, or Turandot… what fun it seemed to wear the great costumes and gesture and march about.
How bad could that be? So we signed up, and anticipated the coming rehearsals (which was to me a grueling schedule of weekday and weekend evenings coming up. (They even scheduled rehearsal on Halloween for god’s sake…
A minute for the plot first… Fidelio is Beethoven’s only opera, which takes place in a Spanish prison. Essentially Florestan is held prisoner, and he has become “inconvenient” for the Prison master Pizarro, and he must be killed. Florestan has a loving wife, Leonora, who takes on the role of a boy, “Fidelio” (Don’t they always in these things?) to get a job at the prison, to be close to Florestan, and of course to change the course of history. This allows the usual mixups (The daughter of Rocco (second in command) falls in love with Fidelio, etc. Jailarity ensues.. and all ends well eventually…
First hitch. It turns out that the male role that they slated me for was a prisoner. Cool I thought… bunch of guys singing.. I can do that… AND, well, I need to be prepared to strip to my boxers on stage and be in chains as I enter the prison… so I guess all of PDX will get to see me as I appear at the doctor’s office..
So with my inner-exhibitionist anticipation, we started rehearsals.
I have so much to say about this experience, I am going to try to break it up into concepts, and write what I can about each. It so far has been an extraordinary experience, and I can’t wait to share. I will take pictures as I can, but I suspect it will be difficult as we are busy back stage, and there is a lot of structure to what we can and can’t do. I will keep you posted.