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4/25/12 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:13 PM
4/25/12 questions and discussion

1-just how much control do we have over ourselves?2
2-should we be optimistic?3
3-why is untethered freedom so valued?4
4-at what point does an action become OCD?0
5-what was it that changed your life for the better?4


Why is it so difficult for people from different backgrounds to connect and is it important in the first place?6

Jess: this is about people with different personalities, interests. The kinds of things we tend to stereotype about each other. We're all human, we all want similar things. What is with the fluff, the layers that keep us apart? Or, we all actually basically different? I'll show a great book to a friend that I love and my friend will say it means nothing to them. I feel represented by the author, they feel totally unrepresented.

Jon: does "fluff" have any good purpose?

Jess: I don't know. Why would I spend time with someone who doesn't understand me? if fluff tells me we don't have much in common it can work as a shorthand but it can also prevent us from even starting a conversation.

Jon: in the book The Happiness Hypothesis the author argues that "fluff", or sources of external happiness have a biological function for all species. These surface ways of getting along help us feel a part of something and, being social animals, we need that in order to best function.

Jess: Facebook is fluff. How does Facebook really describe oneself? 

Tor: there is some research: marriages last longer when they have more in common. People  marry for what they have in common but then stay married because of their differences. Getting to know people, one at a time, is best. Much of it depends on coincidence.  "Fluff" is only important for diplomacy.

Mike: I keep coming back to a belief I have. Our country is supposed to be a smorgasbord of cultures. But don't we end up just going through the motions, being polite/accepting, just to get along? This isn't good interaction. No one really gets to know anyone. We more and more seem to insist upon this smorgasbord approach.

Jess: there's a difference between the social and the deep. I feel it when I don't connect. I wonder if it's worth it. I have travelled a lot and lived for years in different cultures/countries, so I have reliable experiences with being amongst people I know nothing about and who seem very different from me.

Mike: this culture is fueled by TV and the internet encourages superficial involvements.

Mary: manners are very important. Even though they appear superficial they are not an immediate barrier. It's about a modicum of respect. Once that's achieved you can deepen the relationship. Is it interest or need driven? Is it curiosity? Is there a need for a good friend? Looking for a good friend requires many tries. If you're curious it's much easier to find people to get to know well.

Jess: are all people fundamentally the same, or not?

Mary: I think we are different but don't know to what extent our differences are shaped by culture.

Jess: some tell me all everyone wants is to be loved. I prefer being understood.

Mary: Is it a difference between kind, or degree?

Tor: you may disagree but I think the purpose is to find your unique gift and your responsibility is to give it away. This is what makes a person interesting, worth getting to know.

Jess: if they're depressed and have no motivation, thereby making themselves uninteresting, then what?

Tor: I know someone like that. He's now on his way back. His gift was hidden by his being boring.  

Jeremy: I feel we're all blindly flailing! Is anybody friends with anybody? 

Jon: so why do you have friends?

Jeremy: I'm puzzled about my friends. I find myself thinking "he's mad at me." Lo and behold, nothing's wrong! Yet I have friends I should doubt but don't!

Jermy: Whenever I'm with both of my parents I argue with my dad constantly. If it's just me and dad, we don't argue at all.

Jon: the decade or so I attended AA meetings taught me that there are interesting things about everyone. At those meeting I got to know people who superficially offered me nothing of interest, yet turned out to be interesting and in some cases very valuable friends. The key ingredient I think was the baseline assumption all who attend such gatherings possess: we're in trouble and we need one another's support.

Eric: I think we need connection. You never know who you'll need, and when. I don't know if we're always prepared for it. There's something always going on that prevents connection. I'm concerned that we're going somewhere as a civilization where we can't connect no matter how much we want and try to. Technology enables us to separate (earphones). Connecting can be risky. Some prefer not to be understood (even though it's believed to be a common human need).

Mary: if one approaches meeting others with a fear of being judged/rejected, one will not get to know people. A fear of what others will think can paralyze us. As a result of my involvement with the Minnesota Peace Project I learned (via working with politicians) the difference between a genuine getting to know others versus using other's ideas as a way to convince them to think differently.

Jon: is that effort to convince ever positive?

Mary: only if invited!

Jeremy: recently I realized my true friends like my strengths and weaknesses.

Tor: a foreigner is fooled by Americans when they first comes here. Americans behave like they've been friends for years when they first meet you. This is crap. To decode this is the hardest thing for a Scandinavian. In Scandinavia breaking through the social barriers can take centuries! This is also the most charming part about Americans. The ugly American is accepted, largely, in Europe (ironically).

Tor: What's been fun tonight is how each of you has noticed what's interesting about what each other has said. Only here in America can we take from all the other cultures while remaining American. No other country has that.

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