Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017—I’m a proponent of free market capitalism, in that I believe in free things, especially if they can be exchanged for money that helps pay the bills.  Chicken feathers are free, sort of, if you don’t count the cost of feeding and housing the chickens.  Chickens molt on a regular basis, and if their feathers are clean, they can be used in a variety of ways.

I wore this hat, with a Speckles feather, on a “bad hair day” last week, getting smiles and compliments everywhere I went.  At first, I didn’t understand why these strangers were smiling.  Once I caught on, I bragged about how Speckles is alive and well, clean and healthy, and produced this feather of his own free will.

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Pictured here is the same hat with a Squire feather, while the producer stands on his soapbox.  The mason jar contains yellow roses brought by dinner guests and wisteria blooms from the vine I’m training to block summer sun through the window (also free).  The other jar holds saved feathers from previous molts.

My little enterprise, which will never go public, has already produced two sales, the first to my banker, who bought feathers scattered in a plastic sleeve protector.  The second was a trade of a small bag of Squire feathers for a large carafe of saki.  A few more feathers are on sale at a local consignment shop.

Squire tolerates, if he doesn’t necessarily like, going visiting in the cat carrier.  My banker and bank staff fell in love with him.  Speckles might like visiting, too, but so far hasn’t had the opportunity.

My version of capitalism makes use of the wealth between my ears to create value from things other people take for granted.  Those who buy their chickens plucked and cut into pieces can’t be expected to appreciate the beauty of the feathers—individually and collectively—until they see them in different contexts.

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Those who disparage capitalism seem to refer to “corporate capitalism,” which exploits human capital to form a “corporate body” amalgam in economic slavery to the bottom line.  Here we have such monsters as “corporate welfare,” “supercapitalism,” the “global economy,” and eco-rape.  Corporate capitalism has a long history of emphasizing short-term profits over long-term costs.  Local, and now world-wide, environmental pollution, general vitality-depletion on the planet, and a world at war (or perpetually on the verge of it) are only a few of the long term costs generated by an industrial age gone bananas

And, by the way, the bananas, especially the popular Cavendish banana, are at risk, too.  I grow another variety of banana and had a bumper crop last year, despite two major hurricanes.  Another free market capitalist product, courtesy of freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

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The following comments come from my journal, ten years ago this month:

POWER ABUSE
Friday, March 2, 2007 – People who are raised or trained by power abusers don’t learn how to use power wisely.  Entrenched power abuse, as in the military or medicine, is considered normal for those in the systems.  The greatest ambition of the low man on the totem pole is to go from masochist to sadist, where he imagines he will respect himself more than he respects his bosses.

FREEDOM  AND RESPONSIBILITY
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Right makes might.  It isn’t the other way around.    Self-sufficiency breeds freedom.  Taking responsibility for one’s own choices requires the willingness to accept and deal with consequences.  Criminals are soon entrapped in their own crimes, even if others never see.  A guilty man lives with his guilt and must face it, eventually.  His guilt lurks in the shadows, waiting for opportunities to right the wrong.  He can choose to restore balance consciously before he re-establishes it unconsciously through fear.
Thus did Adam learn the hard way that he couldn’t hide from God or his own guilty conscience.

HUMAN CAPITAL
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Human capital is the most undervalued capital of all.  The social engineering messages—through laws, conventions, politics, media, entertainment and advertising–exploit this presumed advantage to everyone’s detriment.  Productivity increases when people enjoy their work enough to create a pleasant work environment.  This should be leadership’s top priority.  Pressure to perform, to grind an endless supply of boring and more boring, saps creativity, initiative, and ultimately, the economy.
When people wake up and realize we all bleed the same red blood, and the best way to live is to let live, we will begin to recognize the value of using our minds to work for instead of against us.  There is no mystique to psychiatry except self-knowledge.  My  life is my creation and no one can live it but me.  The best way to live it is to love it, in its many-faceted faces.
There is plenty of work to be done.  We have too many unproductive people, who want nothing more than to be fitted to the right job for them, and to earn enough money to support basic necessities and a few amenities.  More important, people need to be appreciated as human beings with human dignity and allowed the time and space to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Everyone has a role to play.  A society that appreciates its human capital appreciates in value.  By fitting the job to the individual, rather than the other way around, everyone wins at relatively little cost to others.
Human capital is the only viable capital.  All other capital is derived from human desire and effort.  Once we place our values where they truly belong, with each individual, we can have a truly free, capitalistic, democracy.

Blooming Savannah

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Georgia’s state flower, the Cherokee rose, apparently native to China.  It has thorns that could double as fishing hooks, in a pinch.

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Wisteria, one of my favorites.  A wild vine that blooms only a few minutes in the spring, but perfumes the whole area.  Its intertwining branches can be trained to  create beautiful bases.  Because it’s deciduous, I’m experimenting with training  the branches to cover high windows, to block sun in summer and allow light in winter.

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Camellia.

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Savannah is known for its azaleas, which come in colors from white to purple, to various shades of pink.

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Zinn on First Americans

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A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES:  
1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
Published 1980; fifth printing, 2003

Introduction:  One of the best American history books I have read, this stellar work upsets any romantic notions one might have about our nation’s beginnings.  I read the book seven years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, March 12, 2010—I sprang for A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, who just died a couple of weeks ago.  I have read 40 pages of this 690 page book and find it most inspiring, surprisingly enough.  It begins with an account of Columbus’ brutality in slaughtering the Arawak Indians in the Bahamas (which Zinn never calls the “West Indies”) and the blood lust that accompanied the gold lust and slave lust that characterized not only this but subsequent genocide in North and South America.

Apparently there were 10 million Indians (Native Americans) living in North America when the Europeans arrived, with their strange notions of property rights, their guns and superior attitudes.  Many of these natives were organized in loose confederacies by language.  The Iroquois spread through much of New York , with various centers or pockets of clans distinguished by their regions or specialties.  The Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), and the like.  They were generally pacifist, meaning they existed in peaceful harmony with each other and other tribes.  Disputes were generally between individuals.  Land and housing were held and worked in common.  There was no sexual one-upmanship.  The senior women controlled the decisions about whether to wage war, elected the tribal leaders, and removed them if they got out of line.  They made the moccasins and tended the crops, so they controlled the supplies for warring missions.

The English in Jamestown and New England behaved as badly as Columbus, but here the issue was land rather than gold.  They plopped themselves in the middle of established Indian turf and used guns and deception to bully and con the area Indians into submission.  In the beginning, the natives were willing to share, because this was their way, but when the Brits began to reveal their barbaric, exploitive, attitudes, the Indians grew wary.  Brits raided Indian villages, stole women and children for sex, slavery, and sport, murdered at random, and burned crops for no good reason, even though they were starving.  They couldn’t get along with each other, either, enough to cooperate, and they were all too lazy to work.  Those settlers who defected to the Indians for safe harbor and food were severely punished if caught.

So this is our heritage.  Zinn says the combined assaults of war, disease, and famine decimated the North American Indians to about one million in a few short years (maybe 50).

A quote from Chief Powatan to John Smith in 1607:  “Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?”

I like Zinn’s approach.  He does not romanticize or pander to the cultures that were obliterated.  He is the ultimate egalitarian, so far, recognizing the clash of values in the clash of cultures, and writing the history from the perspective of the vanquished.

The book, and especially the first chapter, spoke to my soul, because the descriptions of Arawaks and mainland natives sounds much like my ideal commune, a place where everyone has a role to play for the communal good, and no role is considered better or worse than others.  I sense the Indian spirit is rising again, by default, if nothing else.  We are backing into it, because we are too weak and debilitated to fight, and there is little left to steal.

This is the great dilemma of modern man.  We have progressed ourselves into a quandary, slaves to our own progress, with a wheel that is spinning out of control.  Progress downhill fast has hit the swampy bottom, I hope, and is having to deal with the muck, sewage, toxins, landfill, and dysfunctional technology it has created.

The “health care crisis” is a political statement, and a wise one.  “Sorry, I’m too sick to go to war, to work, to pay taxes or contribute to the economy.  Where’s my check?  You promised.”
They are learning instinctively if not intellectually, that the way to downsize government is to bankrupt it.

What is Intelligence?

From my journal, seven years ago this month.  Some things don’t change (much).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010—I ran into M and his wife, K, at B&N yesterday, and we got to talking.  M talked a lot about intelligence, and I realized he is insecure about his, because he doesn’t (or didn’t) have a college degree.  He married his first wife because she did and quickly found degrees don’t assure intelligence or curiosity.

We speculated together, and I continued later to wonder what constitutes intelligence.  Others place too much emphasis on standardized tests, I believe, yet these represent the conventional guidelines.  College or advanced degrees constitute another measure.  If you go to a brand name school, all the better.

These don’t guarantee intelligence, though, as M. learned.  By others’ standards, I am intelligent, well educated, and do well enough on standardized tests, but I was not smart enough to reach people like my father.

M said engineers are linear thinkers.  His brother is an engineer and a perfect example.  Another term is “narrow-minded.”  Some people have claimed vocabulary determines intelligence.

Seth, in The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, claims fundamentalism has arisen in reaction to Darwinism, which presumes a random, chaotic, uncaring universe without rules.  But science, as we understand it, binds itself with the most rigid rules and produces people like my father, who deny the existence of anything outside the framework.

I believe intelligence is an attitude rather than a concrete quality.  Intelligence and curiosity may be synonymous, because curiosity gives flexibility, open-mindedness, inventiveness, and common sense.

We don’t measure common sense on IQ tests, but this may determine basic intelligence more than any other parameter.  Common sense finds food when hungry, shelter when cold or wet, safety when threatened.  This is survival of the fittest in action, and this is why the relatively hairless beast called man can survive in freezing weather.  It has little to do with beating other hairless beasts over the head with a club to steal their women and food.

In fact, the fittest and most likely to survive are those who can cooperate in groups, as the pack animals can join together to bring down their prey.

Intelligence is a relative term.   M claims marriage compatibility is based on intelligence, and that he and K are closely matched.

My parents were closely matched in intelligence, I believe, but no one appreciated my mother’s smarts because she didn’t have the degrees to prove it.  Yet she had an active mind, lots of common sense, and managed to keep my father’s interest all their married life.

My father, who made gods of science and intelligence, was one of the most narrow-minded people around.  He couldn’t converse on any topic other than those that interested him, or where he excelled, and these were few indeed.  He had little interest or curiosity about anything outside that box.

If you presume others are stupid, you will miss evidence that conflicts with your belief.  The “scientific method,” the presumption of cause and effect, must exclude more than it includes to have any validity at all, and then you are only proving the limitations of your experiment.  The germ theory of disease, for instance.

 

Following Formalin

 

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Introduction:  I wrote the following speculative fantasy in February, 2010, before I researched formalin on Wikipedia last week.  “Formalin,” I learned, is an aqueous form of formaldehyde, the simplest aldehyde in chemistry.  Formalin contains 40% formaldehyde, 10-12% stabilizer, usually methanol, and the rest water.  90% of formaldehyde occurs naturally, through decaying organic matter.  It does not build up in the environment because it is quickly broken down by sun and bacteria.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, but used extensively in industry.  Major products are composite wood products, like laminates, particle board, hard plywoods, and fiberboard.  Its use in embalming is well known.  It is also used as a pesticide in animal foods, and as a disinfectant.

The primary effects of formaldehyde toxicity are respiratory, with burning eyes and nose.  It can worsen asthma.  Long-term exposure is linked to leukemia.

The formaldehyde toxicity associated with FEMA-provided trailers in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, was possibly caused by the high concentration of new particleboard in poorly ventilated trailers.

Industrialization has raised the amount and diversity of environmental toxins to immeasurable proportions.  From the particle board in kitchen cabinets to the PVC in water pipes, we are living in increasingly toxic conditions that we only worsen with our wasteful, consumerist culture.

While others worry about “climate change,” I’m more concerned with the growing generalized effects of environmental toxins, not only on humans but on all life.  Flint, Michigan is unlikely to be the only city in the US with poisonous water.  Industrialization has led to contamination of water everywhere, differing only in degree.  Even bottled water—and maybe especially bottled water—leaches hormone-altering plastic into the water.  Single-use packaging is particularly hard to justify.

“STRANDS OF CONSCIOUSNESS” FOLLOW FORMALIN

            February, 2010–Seth in Jane Roberts’ Seth series talks about “strands of consciousness” reaching out and entering others, but they are no more invasive than the leaves on a tree and depend on each other for survival—their very existence.   Every atom and molecule participates in a dynamic that can take it from rock to human to animal to insect to marsh grass, to every corner of the earth and dimensions unimaginable.  The atoms and molecules have a kind of memory of their histories, traces, and essences, that contribute to the greater understanding of the whole.

Man is not diminished but expanded by that, because he feels less alone and more connected to the larger dynamic.  We have created god in the human image, without recognizing god is as impersonal as a housefly, as placid as a mountain, as enduring as the galaxies, as strong and gentle as a spider’s web.

A dust particle in the air attests to god’s expansive creativity, and the dust will respond to the sun’s rays in its own way, as will the air molecules that hold it aloft.  All are expressions of the infinite creativity of god –All That Is, in Seth’s terms—the multi-sexual expression of pure energy.  The human division between life and death is arbitrary.  A “dead” human is teeming with other life forms, bacteria and the like, so it is only dead from a human perspective.  The other life that feed on it and helped it survive—as normal flora does—lives on and may not even notice the human identity’s passing.  Until the formaldehyde hits, that is.  Then all bets are off.

“But hey,” says the Cosmic Improv Group, that army of nags inside my imagination, which has lots of strands of consciousness invested in keeping me alive awhile, “Formaldehyde has feelings, too.”

“You betcha,” I reply.  “Not to demean formaldehyde, but I’d rather not party with it, if it’s all the same to you.  Let it play its role with other people.

“Formalin, actually,” say the medical experts.  Formaldehyde has carcinogens and toxins that are believed to be carcinogenic, as I recall, but don’t trust memory on this.  Formalin is supposed to be better on living bodies for preserving dead ones.

Go figure.  All this so the body won’t stink while people gawk over the plastic model of the deceased soul.  Be careful not to shed your tears on the make-up.

But the formalin goes into the ground, and into the sewer systems with the mortuary’s waste, and with the body’s interment.  People dry their tears and start fighting over the estate, and life moves on.

The formalin continues in new forms underground, freed from human bondage, and off to have new adventures.  Because it has the authorities’ seal of safety—was that the FDA, DEA, Cancer Society, Dow Chemicals, Pfizer?  Who decided formalin is less toxic than formaldehyde?  It is allowed free rein in the environment and can join its fellow non-toxins in joyful salute to the demise of mankind.

Now, that was not my strand of consciousness, certainly.  Why would I go off on a tangent about formalin?  Well, I was trying to understand formalin’s point of view, actually, to send a strand of consciousness to the probable life of a formalin molecule, and to enter its world.

Was that invasion?  No.  It was an appreciation for the greater unity that created my consciousness, the tools to make it conscious, and the formalin molecule, too.  I guarantee no formalin molecule is equipped to write about its own life, so who will do it if I don’t?

My experience is minimal, so my imagination limited.  The few anatomy cadaver dissections I participated in in medical school.  A month of a pathology elective, in my senior year, where I spent most of the time studying sliced placentas.

But hey, I’ve probably inhaled more formalin than most people, so its molecules have entered my body and communicated in the way only formalin can.  We just don’t know all the ways it can communicate with us.

 

 

 

The Medicare Myth

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Introduction:  Friday, February 24, 2017–Back in 2005, when I cared about the health scare/snare racket from a practitioner’s point of view, I began research for a book.  The Medicare Myth  proposed a national health care system that would by-pass insurance and pharmaceutical companies to provide access directly to all comers.

Now I care from a patient’s point of view.  My original idea has grown and thrived under Obamacare.  In 2017, as Congressional Republicans move to re-configure Obamacare, the nation grits its teeth and bites its fingernails, contributing to stress and bad outcomes.  It doesn’t have to be this hard.

Obamacare is the talk of every town these days.  I refuse to call this the “Affordable Care Act,” because it is the opposite.  It steals from the poor to pay the rich–the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, and the government–using criminally abusive scare tactics against a naïve and gullible public.

Sadly, the Republicans are hard-pressed to come up with a workable alternative.  Up to the plate I come, to offer a point of view others may appreciate.  Here we have an opportunity to guide the government toward win-win solutions, and no party can claim credit.

Where better to seek solutions than from the “private sector,” of which I consider myself a member?  I also have insider knowledge of how the system works, having been the daughter of a public health doctor as well as a psychiatrist myself, working in the public mental health system, including five VA facilities, in my time.

Consider this:  We already have public sector infrastructure for a comprehensive public health network.  For outpatient services, community public health departments already provide STD screenings, TB skin tests, birth and death certificates, and other services that benefit the community as a whole.  Accessibility is a huge advantage, otherwise not easily available except through emergency departments.  Another advantage is that direct patient care saves paperwork, time, and insurance costs.  It reduces overhead and restores quality to health care.

The Veteran’s Administration Hospital and outpatient system is already in place for vets, and I’ve enjoyed my time working at VAs.  However, I believe the families suffer as much as or more than the vets, as they are primary caretakers.  Why aren’t families covered in the VA system?  And, while we’re at it, why aren’t we all covered?  We all pay for war, one way or the other.

The slave-owner mentality of our mandated Western medical care paradigm is laughable.  While detractors want to blame Barack Obama for this travesty, let’s all remember that GW Bush-appointed John G. Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, cast the deciding vote on Obamacare, declaring the mandate a “tax.”  So, this is bipartisan stupidity at work.

For one thing, I think it’s healthier to get an acupuncture treatment or massage, go dancing or bowling, than sit in doctor’s offices.  Yet, insurance steals money from truly healthy activities to feed the asset plunderers in Washington and money churners on Wall Street.

 

 

 

THE MEDICARE MYTH
Health Care Insurance, Not Health Care
by Katharine C. Otto,  MD
October, 2005

 PREMISE

Medicare was never intended to provide medical care.  It is a government-controlled insurance subsidy.  It guarantees income to insurance companies whether patients are served or not.  This allows for sweetheart deals between government and insurance companies.  Insurance companies profit by delaying and denying treatment.

With the new prescription drug benefit, the stage is set for sweetheart deals between government, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies.  Under these arrangements the aggressively intrusive middlemen profit by collecting payment before treatment and doing everything they can to keep the money.

He who holds the money calls the shots.

Government feeds off taxpayer productivity, exacting payment in advance for services it no longer has incentive to provide.  Are taxpayers getting value for their money?

The government/insurance scam exploits taxpayers under the guise of helping them.  This results in the de facto inaccessibility of timely diagnosis and treatment.

This proposal recommends scrapping the entire Medicare system in favor of public health departments and public hospitals under the Veteran’s Administration Hospital model.  The difference between this and socialized medicine is that it should be easily accessible to all, but voluntary.  Taxpayers are already subsidizing huge investments in Medicare and Medicaid insurance.  Why not spend those same dollars on diagnosis and treatment in a timely and direct manner?

As a citizen and taxpayer, I believe I have an obligation to help care for the community, and I’m happy to support public health, public works, public education, including public libraries, the public mail system, and public transportation.  These are legitimate government functions that provide the nuts and bolts of a smoothly functioning civilization.

America is ripe for the growth of the self-employed, the independent contractor, the small business owner, and those who provide basic, local services that no one can outsource.  The independent contractor could afford health care if he didn’t have to subsidize an insurance-controlled system that shifts costs to those who can least afford them.  A restructured public health system could provide basic accessibility to all and more efficient use of our tax dollars.

Advantages:

  • Public health departments deliver preventive medicine and health maintenance education to local communities. General responsibilities include screening for communicable diseases, providing school outreach, insuring sanitary conditions in public works, public facilities, restaurants, and other places where public health safety may be threatened.  Health departments also provide childhood immunizations, as well as other inoculations.
  • Veterans Administration hospitals already provide direct care to vets. The structure is in place.  VA hospitals are training grounds and essentially supervised apprenticeship programs for students in all health care professions.
  • Peer review and supervision are built into the system. Multiple layers of care provide a clear chain of command and accountability.
  • Reduction of bureaucracy and paperwork. Bureaucrats can be re-trained to serve practical services, like lifting, turning, bathing, and transporting patients.
  • These services could be made available to all but forced on no one. If it’s a good system, everyone wins.  Those who must go beyond what the public systems provide will have easier access to more specialized health care services.
  • Taxpaying citizens deserve better care for the money we spend. Super-inflated costs indicate the health snare system is hopelessly caught in its own trap.  As it increasingly cuts services to swell profits, it becomes even less accessible, more costly, and ultimately less relevant to those who support it.

 

The books pictured above:

  1. Medicare’s Midlife Crisis, Sue A. Blevins, Cato Institute publishers. 2001.
  2. Bellevue Literary Review. BLReview.org.  A literary magazine affiliated with the NYU Langone Medical Center, NYC.  Specializes in medical topics, memoirs, stories, etc.
  3. Two Days That Ruined Your Health Care (And How You Can Provide the Cure), William C. Waters III, MD, MACP, No pub date or copyright.
  4. Rats, Lice, and History: The Biography of a Bacillus. Hans Zinsser, 1934.  A charming story about how the microbes win every war, written before the widespread use of penicillin.  This book is a particular favorite of mine by the original author of medical microbiology texts still used today.
  5. Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine.  “How the pharmaceutical companies are corrupting science, misleading doctors, and threatening your health.” John Abramson, MD, 2004.  This Harvard MD begins opening the can of worms about the sleazy pharmaceutical industry that thrives on patents.
  6. The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they Deceive Us and What To Do About It, Marcia Angell, MD, 2004, 2005.  This former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine  gives another perspective on the pill-pushing mentality of the health snare racket.
  7. (Not pictured)  Patient Power:  A Free-Enterprise Alternative to Clinton’s Health Plan.  John cv. Goodman and Gerald L. Musgrave,   The Cato Institute, publishers, 1994.  Remember in the 1990s, when Hillarycare was soundly rejected by the public?  Then First Lady Hillary Clinton implemented its main features through bureaucracy.  The updated and re-configured version eventually morphed into Obamacare.

 

The Art of Conversation

 

brainboocwern022017           In 2010, I was a member of a local Toastmasters’ club.  Toastmasters International is a group that emphasizes leadership through developing speech-making skills.  The format is highly structured but inclusive enough to allow for short speeches on a variety of topics.  When my work schedule changed, I left the club but remember it fondly and have considered returning.  This journal entry made seven years ago was inspired by a Toastmasters meeting:

 

LISTENING

Tuesday, February 9, 2010–A Toastmasters member read a blurb last night about being a good listener.  It presumed interrupting means you aren’t listening.  I disagree.  I frequently interrupt to clarify a point, to carry thoughts further, or to convert a monologue into a conversation.  I listen with the intent to understand.  It takes “listening” a step further, into the range of “hearing” the context.

If someone is misinformed, under-informed, or if they are over my head, boring, or otherwise wasting my time and theirs, I believe as a good listener, I have an obligation to set the communication on track.

Few people appreciate the give and take of conversation.  If you finish sentences for someone, does that make you a bad listener?  Maybe you’ve listened to that sentence so many times, you know it by heart.

A reader, by definition, is a listener, even though the listening is through eyes rather than ears.  Anyone who watches TV is a listener, of sorts.  Anyone who watches a movie, ditto.  In the latter, the media provide the visual imagery that readers supply for themselves through imagination.

Since that time I’ve thought more about listening and its role in conversation. Our society seems built on passive listening.  By “passive listening,” I refer to structured learning environments, such as classrooms and lecture halls.  Churches follow a similar format, with attendees listening to sermons.  Expression, such as singing or hymns or recitation of creeds, is by rote.  Passive listening extends to radio, television, and movies.  Cultural events, such as plays or concerts, depend on audiences that listen quietly to the performances. The internet has advanced communication by allowing for interactive exchanges through e-mail, FaceBook, Twitter, or blogging.

Pondering this led me to reflect on how the human brain is wired with respect to language.  Most people, about 96 percent, have language ability concentrated in the left hemisphere. Here, the brain processes receptive language (listening) in a specific area called Wernicke’s area.  Patients with Wernicke’s area strokes can speak fluently but do not understand what is being said, by themselves or others.

Broca’s area controls expressive language, or speaking.  People with Broca’s area strokes  can generally understand what is being said, but they have trouble formulating and verbalizing their own thoughts.  This is not a problem of motor function.  The muscles of speech, like in lips and tongue, are not affected by the stroke.  Strangely, those with Broca’s aphasia (speech difficulty) can often sing, presumably because musical expression is located in the right hemisphere.

Writers and speakers make careers out of developing expressive language skills.  They know the challenge of finding the right words to verbalize thoughts.  They must arrange sentences and paragraphs coherently, and anticipate how others might perceive the words in that context.  But writers and lecturers are not necessarily good listeners or good conversationalists.

Toastmasters is one group that offers opportunities to develop expressive language skills.  At another level, improvisational comedy is potentially a way to develop the art of conversation.  Improv’s primary rule is to move the action forward.  A stated or implied “no” creates an impediment to this flow.  In contrast, arguing is an example of how “no” blocks communication.  A good conversationalist wants to hear the other’s point of view.

This led me to speculate about other opportunities in our society to develop conversational skills, a give-and-take in which all participating parties emerge invigorated and refreshed.  How many people listen only to refute, rather than build on thoughts and take them further?  How many agree in an argumentative tone of voice, such that they sound like they are disagreeing?

The art of conversation relies on equal participation from both receptive and expressive sides of the brain, the yin and yang of communication.  Because the two speech areas of the brain are physically separated, I wonder if making a conscious effort to develop conversational dexterity will help connect the two modes of communication—listening and speaking—to benefit all brains equally.

Any thoughts on this?