Despite Cell Phones and Email—
Why Can't People Really Communicate?
From an Aesthetic Realism Public Seminar
by Miriam Weiss
It is an amazing thing that we can communicate via cell phone from a street corner in Manhattan with someone in Mongolia or on the Champs-Elysées, yet there is an elemental situation that predates the first telephone, telegraph and even smoke signal. It was described by Ellen Reiss in an Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry class titled: “There Are Conversations in Poetry”, where she said:
The fact that there are conversations at all is a tremendously wondrous thing attesting to the aesthetic structure of the world: the fact that a person can say something and another person can hear it and that person can say something and it can get into ourselves. The big opposites here are sameness and difference. Someone different from us is adding to us.
The desire to communicate, to establish a relation with what is not ourselves, stands for the deepest desire in every person—to like the world. Meanwhile there’s also something in us that hates the idea, feels it’s preposterous that anyone different can really add to us. This is the largest interference to real communication, the feeling that things and people are beneath us and don’t deserve our precious thoughts, which is contempt. Eli Siegel described in a lecture:
You have to respect and like what you express yourselves to—that is, what you communicate with—before the job of communication can have a fair chance.