Reaching In and Reaching Out

Ice Plant at Cambria

I’m quite fascinated with my love hate relationship with writing here.  As a result I started paying attention to various ways that we communicate.  These include: letters; words – written and oral and electronic; photos and videos; rants and love songs; speeches and cries for help.  Then I was reminded of two of my old favorites: T-shirts and Bumper Stickers.  My all time favorite T-shirt says on the front: “Don’t They Know Who I am?”; and, on the back, “Who Do They Think They Are?”  And for Bumper Stickers, the winners are – they both have to be on the same bumper – “Life’s a Bitch, Then You Die” and “Have a Nice Day.”   More and more we have methods available to express whatever it is we wish to express.  The electronic/Internet universe has added whole new categories: email; text messaging; tweets; Facebook and other social networking sites; videos – on Youtube and many other sources, and, of course, Blogging.  So, I’m back to my question to myself: What is it I want to share and how much time and energy do I want to put into it, and to what end?  On any given day I, and I think you readers as well,  are motivated by a variety of impulses to reach out or not.  There are those who Blog with discipline, consistency and focus – much like those who write regular columns in newspapers – you remember newspapers.  Then I thought about whether or not the method one chooses to communicate says anything about the what and the why we are trying to express.  The appeal of a tweet with it’s 140 character limit allows for great immediacy, a kind of itching of a scratch to relieve some need.  Facebook requires a little more time and effort and activates a larger context with photos and wall writings and other options.  This suggests to me that here the desire may be to give a bit more of ourselves.  As for Blogging I find it taps into my need to both express something and open up a dialogue on some particular theme.  That said, I am very poor at following up on the comments that many of you have made.  So maybe all I really want to do is preach/act/teach a bit and wait for the applause.  This says something about a lot of what I think motivates these notes in an electronic bottle that we toss out into the Cyber-Sea.  “I’m here.”  So, maybe it’s not so much applause we want  but a reminder that we’re not quite as alone as we often feel.  When I take the time to give attention to all the messages I get, in whatever format, I notice that they are all a way of the other giving me a piece of themselves.  Consider this a little piece of myself.  Thanks for listening.

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31 Comments on “Reaching In and Reaching Out”

  1. Josh Says:

    What is the sound of blog clapping?

  2. Jennifer Seyler Says:

    This is a topic I’ve been thinking about more lately. I used to be quite private and shared my thoughts and the details of my life with few people. After using Facebook for awhile I got hooked on the nice feedback I get there. I posted pictures from my hikes yesterday and a few nice friends took the time to look at the pictures within minutes of posting them. And this is always the case. And the kind comments and “like” affirmations keep me posting. It’s like getting a virtual pat on the head. And I’ll take it!

    I still think of myself as relatively private, but I’ve discovered that it’s not about everything. You can look at my hike photos or see my childhood dog. That you can have.

  3. allenkoehn Says:

    Yes, I agree. The key to all this is having some awareness and selectivity about what and why we share. If there has been no reflection then it isn’t relating it is simply plugging in.

  4. Pat Katsky Says:

    I have been fascinated by the tendency to replace acual human face-to-face contact with processes that require us to be sitting in front of some kind of screen, big or little. Yes, it is instantaneous — but it is also sort of a non-communication, in that all the non and semi-verbal aspects of connecting are neatly eliminated. And, I have noticed how I have developed this approach in my own life, even ending up regularly emailing people that are very close to me. I wonder why we are all ending up “connecting’ in this dis-embodied way. Even old-time writing was like that, but the writing lasted longer — you kept your favorite books and reread them. Now we write and throw the writing away, and think we are in connection with others… strange.
    Pat K.

  5. allenkoehn Says:

    In a funny way I think that the ephemeral quality of the electronic connection speaks to the true nature of things and our fantasy that written words will somehow last is exactly the dilemma we’re struggling with. As you can see by my post I haven’t quite come to a “final” resolution. ak

    • MaryBeth Crane Says:

      I am reminded of traveling alone in a new country. No one there has any knowledge or expectation of me. I get to create myself anew in each encounter with a stranger. Posting feels similar to me, although some of you know me quite well. I say more here than I would say at a cocktail party. About the ephemeral quality…I feel that our new connectedness is related to the sense that our words will move the reader, even if they are not remembered–I’m sending an action out into the collective that will reverberate. About moving the reader: Julie and I have had in interesting exchange about ways to describe an event vs. ways to describe the way that the event MOVES us. And, Allen, your point about all the ways we communicate brings up the experience of sitting for an hour a week with a voluntary mute. That’s an education in communication! I’m Glad that you post and I’m Glad that people comment!

      • allenkoehn Says:

        MB – Yes, we are all in a “new country” every moment of everyday. We do “create ourselves anew”. Thanks, ak

  6. Bryan McNutt Says:

    Thanks for your honesty with articulating this, Allen. Your described love-hate relationship to posting your reflections is something I can relate to. I also have watched and felt the pendulum swing between my attraction and aversion towards electronic online communication … or more specifically, to the obligation of communication, regardless of form. Since the development of (and my increased involvement in) more numerous mediums and streams of cyber-communication, I have also experienced a need for the connection offered through it, as well as the need for avoiding it … But this is beyond the form … For me, it strikes at a deeper level of obligation that I feel towards recognizing others who throw that message in the bottle into the cyber-sea … Whether written on a postcard with ink or drafted on the subway from a blackberry, I see these all as forms of stepping out to be heard … and hopefully there is someone listening in response. Funny, this obligation was stirred in me when I read your post today … So, I guess what I can say is, “I hear you.”

  7. allenkoehn Says:

    Thanks Bryan. You articulated many of the things I have been thinking and feeling. Since Hermes is the God of communication is it any wonder that there is a Tricksterish quality to this whole arena. There is a lot of “appetite” swirling through this. ak

  8. Raddish Leaf Says:

    Hello, Allen –

    Thanks for talking. I’m here – and I, too, hear you.

    Pat Katsky commented on “the tendency to replace acual human face-to-face contact with processes that require us to be sitting in front of some kind of screen, big or little”. I find the largest reason I have replaced the face-to-face contact is because, in one sense, I am not “here”; actually I am “there” – on the other side of the continent. It is a way of staying connected with cherished, long-time friends who are three time zones away. It is a way of blowing off all of time/space and saying “I can be here, with you, regardless of where each of our physical presences happens to be.”

    • allenkoehn Says:

      Yes, thank goodness we can be in touch. AND, there is the poignant feeling of being at a distance that makes the contact so sweet.

  9. michelle oricoli Says:

    I hated, HATED the idea of cellphones way back when. Hated the idea that I should always be accessible. I got over that, just answered it when I felt like. Went through a similar period with email, only checked it once or twice a week, almost spitefully. Now I rely on it to keep in touch with friends, family. I’m in a hateful phase of facebook right now, one I fully expect will morph into some sort of appreciation at some point. I too have not come to a final personal resolution about communicating a la electronically in all shapes and forms, but I am glad I received your column because it reminded me of you and made me smile.

  10. christine kenmore Says:

    Allen – just to let you know, I read your posts every time you send them, so don’t take me off your list! I love them. I am, however, usually too intimidated to comment. The other comments seem as well thought through and erudite as yours. My main reaction was – “where can I get me that T-shirt?”

  11. Gerald DiPego Says:

    Applause. And you are not alone. (keep me posted) Jerry

  12. Jerry DiPego Says:


    And you are not alone.

    And a thank you for ‘notes in an electric bottle tossed into the cyber sea’. That’s a keeper. Keep me posted.

  13. Christina Says:

    As I’m reading your words, my own parallel
    process about living in a city comes to mind.
    If I were back home with less than 5,000 people
    around me- I’d just drop by to talk to people.
    Living in a larger city, I feel a lack of community,
    and electronic communication allows me to connect
    into my old community, and alleviates some of the
    feelings of isolation you spoke to above.
    While this seems to be a conscious awareness,
    something seems to stop me from just moving back to
    such a community. So while I hate living in a city &
    needing the electronic communications, I would not
    be reprocessing this without your electronic blog.
    Just randomish thoughts.

  14. Jennifer Seyler Says:

    Reading the comments (esp. Pat’s), I realize that I have evolved my way of connecting to include and integrate electronic communication. It doesn’t replace it or lessen it, but rather complements the face-to-face variety.

    I went hiking last week with a gal I met on a backpacking trip a few weeks ago. If it weren’t for Facebook, I would have surely never seen her again. But she saw a post about my plans to hike, got in touch, and we had an amazing day together. At this very moment, I am back and forth on instant messenger with a friend about plans to go to a party and a concert. If we had to wait to catch each other by phone, neither may ever happen. All of that is to say that it may work for some, not for others. I am a voracious consumer of technology, though, so it does fit my style.

  15. Dostoevlover Says:

    Your interesting blog this week brings up many questions I find myself having about the value and drawbacks of modern technology, whose ease and accessibility in the area of communications seems to be creating as many potential problems as benefits. The fact that we can communicate more frequently and with less censure over what we say in such modes as blogs, Facebook, etc. creates quick and fluid connections between individuals that would otherwise never be in contact. And while I agree with the observation that email has the tendency for many of us to avoid face-to-face communication, I find myself wondering, did these face-to-face conversations ever really take place with the frequency and in the quality we think they occurred and are now not happening? I also find myself at times thinking of email and other internet communication as actually a return to old and rich form of communication – letter writing. A well-written letter can allow for deeper and more considered thought on a subject than a face-to-face conversation, can reveal more about a person’s soul by the words that person takes the time to choose – it can become a form of art. It all depends on the context and the person.
    And I would also suggest that we as users of all this new technology not get too caught up in the vagaries of communication that these various modes make possible. Of course, all kinds of crazy, dangerous, and stupid nonsense gets sent out and broadcast on the internet. Let us not forget that the First Amendment, in upholding freedom of speech, acknowledges, not just the communication we would prefer to see, but all speech, regardless of its quality and intent. Let us all just try to think before we blog.

  16. Bernie Schwenck Says:

    I like your thinking, but you know me the computer communication is nice, but I don’t do computer very well. So for me the best of all worlds is to see and hear the message. If that is not possible then at least hearing the voice give me some sense of the person.
    Love Bernie

  17. Savannah Blake Says:

    Interesting blog. Interesting comments. Facebook and other similar sites do seem to provide an instant mirroring and validation. Even though we are “connecting” through a screen, one can put something out there and within no time, get a response of some sort…and from people they perhaps have not been in contact with in ages. How cool is it when you post a status and someone from elementary school or Pacifica or a childhood crush or a friend in Korea responds in some way? Even though I cannot see them or share a personal space with them, they have validated my existence. That feels good. As for the T-shirts, how about this one?:

    That was Zen
    This is Tao

  18. Kim B. Says:

    I’ve been debating whether to blog, tweet, do facebook, etc. so this entry really resonates. The difference is that you are boldly blogging and I’m still trying to decide. But, I do feel more connected just knowing others are struggling/questioning too.

  19. Dea Butcher Says:

    Hi Allen,

    I do enjoy your blogs. I’ve been framing things with “get to” instead of “have to” which then makes me think of you. So does this Tricksterish life I lead but that is something else again.

    This communication topic, yes. I have feet in both camps. I miss writing letters, receiving letters, seeing handwriting on paper. But I so enjoy my opportunities to share bits of myself and participate in bits of others that I find out here on the internet, amongst friends and loved ones. For me, as I live out here in “Loon” land, the face-to-face is not so easy. So, yes, this is a place of connection, this Cyber-sea.

    I’m also finding it a place of re-connection and re-membering as people and pieces of my entire life are found again. In an odd way, I find it healing, a form of soul retrieval, if you will. Add to that laughing out loud, tears, smiles, and virtual hugs as well as sharing in these bits of ourselves … our “notes in electric bottles tossed into the Cyber-sea” (love that).

    And, I wonder, if because of this screen instead of a face in front of me, I might be more daring about sharing bits of myself. Or more thoughtful as I search for the right words…or not.

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