Sunday, January 30, 2005

Is : Was : Could Be : Should Be

We humans are incredibly complex creatures when looked at as individuals - yet similar enough when looked at as an aggregated group to make some broad generalisations.

In my new MD role (ahhhhh ... yeeeessss ... NOW we understand why she's been too busy to post), I have a pretty far-ranging job spec - including ensuring that communication channels are established and working in a company. This means a lot of listening in to conversations and seeing where they're going wrong and WHY. You could say that a good part of my job is to eavesdrop - but I promise it's done for the forces of good.

Now, there was a rather interesting conversation going on a couple of days ago - it was actually during a lunch break and it wasn't really about work, but it's dynamics were such a perfect illustration of what can go really, really wrong in human interaction that I found myself thinking about it for a long time afterward.

Two people were talking about something. They didn't have opposing views on the topic, yet they almost had an argument about it. How?

Well, I have a theory and the theory comes about from a story...

:: IS

A while ago I came across a person who insisted on communicating in a completely one-dimensional way. No matter where a conversation went on any topic, he would always bring it back to how things were right now. So, for example, I would talk about the kind of political system I would like to see in Australia one day and he would keep coming back to what was in force at the time. I would talk about a business and what kind of strategy I saw for it in the future and he would keep reminding me what was in place at the moment. I would talk about the weekend, hoping for great weather - and he would look outside and comment on the current clouds - I think you all get the picture.

He couldn't actually fantasize, imagine or extrapolate to some future date and talk to me about something that wasn't concrete reality today.

He was so exceptional, so very consistently one-dimensional in his mode of communication, in fact, that I gave his mode a name ('Is'), and started to notice those times when other people did the same thing. Others (thankfully) didn't stay in just one mode, so I was able to differentiate four different modes in common conversation.

:: WAS

Some - especially those inclined toward an enjoyment of things historical - can consistently bring the conversation back to what 'was'. They have an absolute wealth of knowledge (usually detailed, including dates and names) of everything that has preceeded a certain event or time and are more than willing to share it at every opportunity. They add depth to any discussion by helping people understand what has come before to shape the reality of today.


This is the mode of thought and communication reserved for dreaming about something that isn't concrete reality now. Some people are really quite wonderful at imagining worlds, places, events and things that haven't happened and describing them in breathtaking detail. This is the mode of communication used by thinkers, philosophers, inventors and those politicians that still remember what they're paid for.


Moralizers are characterised by diverting to this mode of communication often. Everything comes back to what 'should be' according to their particular credo, code or belief system. I have to admit that I've been guilty of this one myself, especially when talking about philosophical or political matters.

So what happened during that lunch break that has anything to do with this? Simple - one person was in 'is' mode and the other was in 'should be'. The topic around which this conversation is centered isn't even important....the dynamic is all that matters:

Could be: You know, I was thinking - wouldn't it be wonderful if...[x]...??
Is: You can't do that.
Could be: What?
Is: You just can't, the necessary technology isn't available.
Could be: Yes, but it will be one day.
Is: But it's not available now.
Could be: Sure, I know that, but it would just be so cool...
Is: (technical reason for current impossibility)
Could be: That doesn't matter!
Is: Sure it does - it makes it impossible. nauseum (well, actually ad finitum luncheon).

Cue slighly growly end to conversation - for no particular reason other than the two people don't see they're just coming at the same idea from two different places and with two very different needs from the conversation. 'Is' just wants a confirmation that they're right, where 'could be' wants someone to bounce ideas off and perhaps a small pat on the head for thinking of them in the first place. (And before the comments go up - this is just a cartoon-like extrapolation of the gist of this conversation - both these people are highly, highly intelligent and express themselves rather more eloquently.)

I'm not sure if I'm right - there may be a better way of dividing up modes of communiation - but I've not yet found a better tool for understanding some of the pettier, sillier arguments that people have.

In the end, I think it's healthy (and SO much more interesting) for a person to be able to smoothly and frequently switch between these modes when conversing. In fact, I do wonder if it's one of the ways to consciously become a more interesting person and a far better communicator. Certainly, understanding these modes has helped me to avoid silly disputes over - quite literally - nothing.

I realise that this isn't my usual posting fare, but it's what's taking up a lot of my thought processes once more and I'll keep sharing it in a general manner in the hope that some people find it interesting.


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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Proof of life

So why aren't I posting?

Well, let's just say that I'm currently redefining the term 'busy' in the English language...BUT...blogging will soon become a part of my job for one of the business projects I'm involved in so you'll all be getting a fix.

I think that the tone here will change somewhat to reflect what I'm doing more of - which is business. I encourage all of you to not to just cherry pick and skip to posts that involve me talking about how pretty flowers are - the mechanics and psychology behind business are very much parallel to other things we do in life...learning about the way things work in the world that gets you your products and services can be a valuable lesson in human psychology, organisation and politics.

Anyhow...enough of that...too abstract by far for now.

Cheers! (Yes, I've been Anglicized)


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Sunday, January 09, 2005


A cold wind played its way across grass and ruffled taller bracken near the lake's edge. Lending it's bluster to the placid water's surface, the wind stirred a tempest, varnish-thin, that - for all it's fury - could not disturb the stillness below.

It did not touch the trees. They feigned death with the skill that comes of a lifetime's practice and nothing of this earth could wake them now from their winter's slumber.

I walked toward this tableau, across a plain of grass, gently shedding my awareness of the world of concrete and machine. Leaving it behind me like a cloak to be retrieved on my return journey.

Something ahead of me drew me forward, as it had always done. A gentle pull at my breastbone urged me, coaxed me onward. The world to all sides, the things that I could not see, falling away into insignificance - it's sights gone once they passed the periphery of my vision, it's noises ebbing away to nothing.

The lake offers me something every time I surrender to it. Contours that will not change their course in my lifetime obligingly don new cladding at the behest of each season, reminding me of the swift passage of time since I arrived here.

The changes fascinate me - a child of more tropical climes - and I greet small outcrops of trees, remembered glades and favorite curves of water as old friends - superficially different yet familiar in fundamentals - pleasingly grown since the last time we met.

What the lake and it's surrounding forest will choose to impart is never known to me beforehand. I venture there alone with no expectation beyond immediate sensory enjoyment and in this I am never dissappointed. Yet, on recollection, each visit is tinged with an emotion. A realisation or a reflection that stands out in comparison to others.

And so it was that this time it was to death that my mind turned. Not a morbid reflection or a sadness but a strangely calm acceptance of it's place in the order of things and the realisation that it can strike in one of two ways.

Suddenly, terribly and tragically - as we all have had ample proof of this Christmas period.

And it can come slowly...encroaching inevitably to engulf something we once treasured. It is this type that I was thinking of at the lake, bare trees around me, water dark and sluggish. It's the kind of death that bears down like winter, announcing it's intent for anyone willing to listen. I came to believe that when something dies in this way we should consider ourselves fortunate that there is time and opportunity to ensure nothing is unsaid and undone, that we can prepare ourselves as best as we can for the inevitable. And since it is inevitable, perhaps accept the grief with more grace than we could otherwise bear.

The sun seems to tire early in the evenings these days and I knew that to stay here for too long would quickly become dangerous. Taking one last look, I was struck by the stillness that engulfed everything around me, despite the wind. It was like the stillness of the lake - deep at the core and unmovable - but waiting for something to move it. It seemed to stretch itself out toward me and quiet me as few other things can.

I smiled as I imagined the riot of colours and growth, the movement and exuberance that spring would bring once again to this ground and it gave me the strength to wait out the winter in hope.


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Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Why Rory is one of the best bloggers out there:


You can get just interesting - sites that waffle on about the speckled markings of the Rare Madagascan Sea Twerp.

You can also get just funny - German slapstick. (I didn't say VERY funny, just, you know - funny.)

But combine the two and you suddenly have an educational ride deep into the psyche of a geek that leaves you giggling. What more do you want? (No, not yet, popcorn is something he's considering for Q3 2006)


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Nose. Grindstone. Touching. Skin being whittled off.

Start of another year of work tomorrow (well, today, as I stay up way too late these days).

I'm also sleeping in my own bed tonight, which means that I will actually be posting things on here more often...I've spent almost every night for the last 1.5 weeks away from home.

I must need the view from my study window in order to blog with any regularity or clarity. Who knows. I've also been very distracted with life, the universe and everything for a little while - which certainly made things interesting for me but deathly dull for you lot.

2005 promises to be - all things that might be about to happen and have already happened - the most interesting, challenging and rewarding year of my life. I don't know what this means for the blog, although knowing me, the busier I am the more time I find in my day to do things.

Is it too late to wish you all a wonderful New Year? I think not. I'll leave conformism to those who care about other's opinions overly much.

To everyone reading - may your New Year bring you everything you desire commensurate to the amount of effort you put into attaining it. Sorry, free lunches are being handed out in another universe.

To those who know I do already - I love you. It just bears repeating.


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