Tuesday, 24 August 2010

day 14: communication

so two weeks gone, and i'm feeling pretty tired now. it's the middle period of ramadan that is the most difficult. the last ten days have a special significance, and usually there is a lot more time devoted to prayer. i can't believe the days have gone by so quickly, and also that i've managed to write almost every night. some days it has been a struggle and i'm not sure that i've managed to get across all things i have in my mind. today's post is a day late, but i've still called it day 14 in the hope that i'll get out another post for tonight.

today, i'm thinking about communication. it's the basis of our interactions with each other as human beings. it's the way we relate to each other, the way we form and maintain bonds.

communication has become so much easier in the modern age. the internet is a wonderful invention, which gives us email, chat, social networking and skype. instant contact with people all around the world, the ability to form groups and organise - i think it's all wonderful. i also totally love mobile phones & SMS.

now i'm going to do my senior citizen impression. i certainly remember, back in the day, when it took two and a half weeks for a letter to get from hamilton nz to a remote village in the ganges plains. there was no phone contact available, at all. when phone contact became available in some of the cities, few people would have a phone. and toll calls were so expensive - something like $3.00 per minute, and i'm talking 1980 dollars here so you can try to imagine what that would be in today's dollars.

so when we wanted to make a phone call, we'd ring the nearest neighbour with a phone, and ask them to send someone around to our friend or relative's home, to ensure that the person(s) we wanted to talk to would be ready by the phone in half an hours time. and we didn't waste our time with "hello, how are you, how's the family, how's the weather". no, we usually had all the main points written down prior to the call, and went through them as quickly as possible. oh, and the shouting! i bet every neighbour to 3 houses down could have heard our side of the conversation.

it's so much easier now. every villager in india has a mobile phone, and access is instant. if every home doesn't have a computer, then there will be an internet cafe around the next corner. i love digital cameras and video clips that can be sent across the continents to be enjoyed by friends and family on the other side of the world.

it's also much easier to organise meetings. meetings can be shorter because some of the discussion can happen via email. teleconferencing and videoconferencing are wonderful, and make it so much easier to organise at a national level. organisations that would have found it very to difficult to form, let alone function, can now proceed at much lower cost & effort. no need for expensive airfares for a group of people to get to one place.

but let's go back to basics. communication is often about speech and body language. being able to express how you feel and to be understood is a wonderful thing. often something we take for granted until we travel to a country where no-one speaks our language, and where gestures might not have meaning either.

communication is about public speaking. i enjoy public speaking myself, and have been inspired by many wonderful public speakers in the past. there's something about the spoken word, heard live, that can't be captured by the written word. the depth of emotion and humour that can be conveyed by intonation is totally missing on the written page.

but of course i'm a fan of the written word as well. as you can see from this latest series, i love to write. and i also love to read. i love my collection of books, many of which i go back to and re-read - i'm currently going through the complete sherlock homes, by sir arthur conan doyle, for no apparent reason other than i haven't read them for many years. i usually go through jane austen once every 3-4 years, and have had a few re-readings of the lord of the rings. there's something comfortable about going back through familiar stories, and finding something new in them each time.

these days, more of my reading is on the internet, with blogs & websites. i love to read informed debate and thoughtful analysis. i especially appreciate all those people who blog with little or no return, but who often provide independent voices on important issues - or at least voices that aren't driven solely by commercial considerations.

communication also involves media of tv, radio, newspapers and film. but i'm already running a day late with this post and media is a huge topic in itself. so i'll leave it there. but if there is a cause you wish to support around communication, i'd highly recommend reporters without borders.

to all the people who struggle with communication, or who don't have access to forms of communication because they can't afford a computer or an internet connection for example, for those who face barriers to open communication, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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