4/24/13 questions and discussion
1-what is a criminal?4
2-how long before we have faster than light communication/warp drive?2
3-should we encourage third world countries to become first world countries?3
4-how do we not die of loneliness?8
5-how might the federal government's forgiving all student loans affect the economy?4
6-is fame a reward or a punishment?5
7-why do we gossip?4
how do we not die of loneliness?
Tor: there's a difference between being alone and being lonely. I cherish being alone. Loneliness comes from culture. Sweden is a very formal culture where they maintain peculiar distance from one another. Minnesota has some of this. Americans are looked at as bizarre by other cultures with their invasive questioning. Scandinavians maintain a 10' distance. We prefer being to ourselves in a mountain cabin, working on it, the firewood, etc. So when we require someone else's help we're unable to break through a wall of sorts. Now we have social media -- we can talk to anyone! Loneliness can cause depression/suicide. The antidote to loneliness is gathering on a regular basis to do something one loves to do. It's called the "Community Variable."
Jon: if you died today would it be of loneliness? What kind of thing could happen to you to cause you to die of loneliness?
Tor: no, not as long as I keep coming here! The odds: the most preventable death is falling (11%), next smoking, alcohol/drug, driving accidents. I have 3,000 relatives in the US. I have friends that compensate for any possible shortcomings in the loneliness department.
Matt: do you have a family?
Tor: I am related to an astounding number of Norwegians!
Matt: Iceland has a smart phone application for finding one's relatives because the government keeps good genealogical records.
Tor: that is creepy. It has amounted to telling Icelandians how incestuous they are.
Rachel: why do people die so soon after their spouses? Is the cause of loneliness societal, or is it one of individual circumstance?
Jon: there's a documentary out there called Craigslist Joe. That guy decided to leave his home for one month with three things: a smartphone, a laptop, and the clothes on his back. He wanted to see if by using Craig's List he could survive. He was doubtful at the start, thinking the internet and social media were actually creating greater distances between us. Instead he found a great deal of help. He did it during Winter yet only spent two out of thirty one days on the street overnight! At film's end he sits and sobs as he thinks about how kindly he's been treated, at how wrong he'd been. Loneliness, viewed through that experience seems almost impossible to have by accident. That story makes it appear that those who are lonely are perhaps avoiding human contact in some way. If I can post to Craig's List for a place to crash tonight and likely successful, how difficult can it be to find people to combat loneliness with?
Jess: I wondered what effect the cameral had on the way people treated that guy.
Tor: this is to do with being willing to ask anyone for anything. There are different levels of intimacy. Americans are very good at this. I prefer not to be spoken to at parties but if someone says something interesting I think I must speak with them!
Jon: when I last attended art school one of the visiting speakers was a twenty-something Dutch man with a slide show who'd just spent a couple years traveling across America with a backpack and a camera. This was back in the 80s so there were no laptops/smartphones. He said he regularly found places to sleep/be fed, usually by going to bars and asking patrons for a place to crash.
Mike: Hemingway wrote that bars are full of sad people waiting for something to happen. Late at night in bars is when people are most prone to take in a strangers. Once in NYC I was staying in Greenwich Village in the 80s. Very interesting time. We could see through maybe 10,000 apartment windows. We saw that everyone was watching the same TV program. Could loneliness be the absence of stimulation? My experience has me thinking we can reach a point of association where one's "been around," seen it all, and one can say they're aware of how others can manipulate us, hurt us. This won't work though if one isn't able to keep the world at arm's length. I was involved in a study trying to find a way to keep people working in quiet control rooms from getting sleepy. The cure was to make the room roughly similar to a coffee shop!
Tor: in Sweden social workers started monitoring how often people in elderly housing flushed their toilets in order to see how lonely they were. Supposedly if a particular toilet hadn't been flushed it meant its owner was ill, or needed company. The subjects came to detest this. They figured out some kind of device that would randomly flush their toilets so the damned social workers would leave them alone!
Brian: there's a particular kind of person who is less susceptible to lonelines. Introverts are less at risk because they enjoy being alone. I am fairly introverted. I don't get bored unless I'm with other people. Then I feel an obligation to be interesting.
Jon: do you ever spend too much time alone?
Brian: yes, when I do I just need to go outside, even just walk among strangers makes it better. Coffee makes me spend too much time alone!
Jess: passion doesn't necessarily require people. When one is doing something they feel passionate about loneliness disappears.
Siva: there are two kinds of people. Some are active socializers, no matter where they are. I'm not one of those. Social environments for me require a reason, a focus.
Jon: have you ever been too lonely?
Siva: I am now, and I feel no control over it. It would be forced for me to just go outside and be among strangers because that has no reason, no focus.
Mike: it's an American thing that we decided that loneliness is bad. That's why we have pathetic birthday parties in nursing homes. If this group was told to lead a course for young people. What would we teach?
Tor: I taught the last course people took for PHD or Masters. One requirement was to write a paper. So I asked them to write about something they've always wanted to know. It was their last chance to avail themselves of the University's excellent resources. They disappeared, starting calling all over the place. They were very focused. We only have to ask. Asking is what takes courage.
Siva: I'd tell them to tune in turn on and drop out. Have them read Tim Leary's book.
Rachel: encourage them to ask questions. By putting some responsibility on them their interests will guide their learning. I would move the conversation if they hesitate or are shy.
Matt: they should learn a language! This will require them to interact with others because there's no purpose in learning a language without using it with people.
Mike: tell them that when they're as old as I am and if they don't fee fulfilled it's their own damn fault. Tell the to make the most of their. It is your fault if you get old and you find yourself lonely.
Jess: I would tell them to take responsibility for themselves and give up the blame game, the "I'm entitled" game. The young lack experience and wisdom as a matter of course so my instruction would be to enable the acquisition of both.
Jon: teach whatever I feel passionate about. The Minnesota poet Robert Bly once said that even a cruel man is sweet when he is teaching. Enthusiasm can be infectious and it wouldn't bother me at all if some of the students dropped out because they weren't interested. I would encourage those students to go find a teacher whose passions match their own.
Eric: some people are more likely lonely and being with others may not be of help. It really can't be taught, it's more of an exposure to experiences.
Jack: I feel with social media we have a heavy pressure to be social. Pressure to text, post, tweet, etc. I am very introverted. It's hard to know if I'm lonely. For a long time I thought I should feel lonely because I haven't been more social. Journaling about these expectations can affect one positively.
Brian: try to encourage reading and then talking about what they read. Also I would try to teach them to appreciate silence.
Lucas: I would try to find ways to lower barriers to social interaction. Smaller groups, for example.