14/14 What next?

12/03/2014

Calm - Loutro 2006

So the tack is complete, we are heading in a new direction, the wind steadier, the sea friendlier. If the change was rough – a few moments of intenser activity, then so be it. What comes next is now the interest. The poet put it this way:

“And past the poppies bluish neutral distance

Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach

Of shapes and shingles. Here is unfenced existence:

Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.”

from Here by Philip Larkin in Whitsun Weddings

Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. In the meantime, in the greater quest for understanding, I wish you fair winds and following seas. ~~~ Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing. Wave 11

13/14 Our choice

12/03/2014

I took the following images in Teignmouth earlier this month during one of three exceptional storms to hit the UK.

DSC_0446

DSC_0467

DSC_0463

When the waves swamp the very ground that we love – ground that has seemingly been there for ever, ground we have always taken for granted, should we shrug our shoulders and walk away?

Or should we look at it afresh and see it for what it is, the erosion of a fragile and valuable asset that makes a harsher world bearable?

Should we keep repairing it or should we let it go?

The tide of languages is flowing and unstoppable. In many ways it is exciting. It is evolutionary. But it is eroding the core beneath it – the relationship-base that lies at the heart of humanity.

Should we keep repairing it or should we let it go?

Whatever language we speak, it’s our choice and we have to decide . . . now.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

12/14 A child learns

10/03/2014

Waves 2

I first read Dorothy Nolte’s poem in the 1970s. I can’t say it better than this.

(For those who speak the language of gender, please note that she later changed the wording to make it gender neutral – ‘child’ to ‘children’. I have kept to the original because that’s how I first learnt it but I acknowledge the difference).

Children (male and female) Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism,

he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,

he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear,

he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with pity,

he learns to feel sorry for himself.

If a child lives with ridicule,

he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame,

he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement,

he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with tolerance,

he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise,

he learns to be appreciated.

If a child lives with acceptance,

he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval,

he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition,

he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with sharing,

he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness,

he learns what truth and justice are.

If a child lives with security,

he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you live with serenity,

your child will live with peace of mind.

With what is your child living?

Dorothy Law Nolte

~~~

Do I have to spell it out?

If children live with suspicion, fear, grief, mean-spiritedness and vindictiveness, what are they learning?

If children live with understanding, respect and trust, what are they learning?

The world is full of the former. They get all the headlines.

The world is also full of the latter. But you have to work harder to see it.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Wave on shore -Teignmouth 2006

11/14 A child learning

09/03/2014

Splash - At sea 2006

Now we have reached a point where I must stand back. It is easy for me to sit at the keyboard and write assertions. I am an ex-dentist, a white, 65 years old, married Cornishman who likes boats. There are a few people in the world who fit this description but the overwhelming majority don’t. It has been my intention in these posts to paint a picture. It is my picture but I want to encourage you to take it and do whatever you can with it. For you to do this, we need a starting point – that initial rapport I mentioned earlier, and I acknowledge that the description of me above might get in the way. However . . .

~~~

There was a time before I thought about things, before I worried over the problems of daily life, before I thought things through from start to finish, before I made decisions that pushed me in one direction or another, before my knowledge, skills and attitudes such that they are affected others.

These past few weeks standing astride the rather shaky line between a life that has now finished and one that has barely started seem to warrant a reflection on a moment when my own life was raw experience, untrammeled by the education of others. Was there ever such a time? – I wonder. If I can recall it, will it make a difference? – I don’t know. But let’s try and see what happens.

First thoughts: Aged two, I did not have the language to describe this in the way I am now doing – but I did have the feelings – the beginnings of experience:

This is a sunny day.

I stand on the waters edge.

I see flashes of light sparkling on the waves

Warm sun on skin.

There are the happy sounds of people talking, laughing, shouting.

Among them are two familiar figures, my mother and father. Even though they are a little further away, it is comforting that they are there. I feel safe.

There is the sound of water too. Small waves shushing round my ankles, the splashing of happy people and below this the deeper resonance of the sea breathing in response to the wider ocean beyond. I don’t know about the wider ocean but I do hear the sound it makes.

I lick the back of my hand and taste sea-water.

I feel the sand gritty between my toes.

As the waves wash over my feet, the sand moves and I feel my feet sink gently into it.

A bigger wave breaks against me and I step back and find no sand there. I tumble backwards into a deep pool, the wave rolling me over and over. I don’t know whether I am upright or upside down. I bounce on the sand at the bottom of the pool. The water feels cold. It pushes me first one way then another.

My eyes are open and I see sand and then sky through the water. It is indistinct, wavering. There is sand swirling through the water.

My mouth is open. I swallow. Water runs into my nose. My ears are full. My arms are waving and legs kicking.

From being warm and comfortable and happy, I become instantly helpless and terrified.

I cry out but make no sound beneath the surface.

And then, as suddenly, I feel hands around me and I am lifted into the air.

My eyes sting. I cough and splutter. I hurt inside.

Water runs out of my nose, my ears.

Tears stream down my cheeks.

There is the taste of tears and the stronger taste of seawater.

My arms around a neck. My cheek on a shoulder. My cries coming back.

Soothing words. A comforting hand rubbing my back.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, there was a moment in your life when the raw world first touched you too. It may have been a good moment or a bad moment. The above was mine. I share it with you . . . in the greater quest for understanding.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Splash -Teignmouth 2006

10/14 A specific example

08/03/2014

Cross currents - Teignmouth 2014

In this post, I want to highlight a specific example of the negative language mentioned in the last post.

When I was a student, I was in awe of the complexity of the discipline I had undertaken. I looked at experienced practitioners and thought they were all brilliant – every one of them seemed stuffed full of the knowledge, skills and attitudes that I was aspiring to.

After I qualified and gained experience, I realised that I had been mistaken. We were not all stuffed full of all the knowledge, skills and attitudes that were open to us. Some were more skilled than others, some were very skilled at certain things and ignorant of others; while some were constantly studying, others had a more relaxed attitude.

A pattern was pointed out to me in numerical terms. It was stated that 2% of practitioners fully mastered every aspect of the profession, 8% became very adept in one part or another, 34% were students, studying hard to join the adept and the masters, and the remaining 54% practiced at a reasonable level but, for various reasons, did not wish to take their study a lot further other than the normal upgrading of current knowledge.

I’m not keen on putting numbers to this because numbers tend to imply an exact science and I am sure this is not one. However, I can illustrate the point. Take the annual London Marathon as an example. Every year some 36,000 people volunteer to run the 26 plus miles. This is a very positive group of people with a common aim.

However, if we look at the line-up at the start, we find a relatively small group of top class runners in the front row. Behind them is a bigger group of national class runners and the best of the club runners. Then come an even bigger group, the ‘students’ – the rest of the club runners and everyone who is keen to make a creditable time compared to all the good runners, i.e. they are in it for the race. Finally there is the majority – everyone else in the race for many different reasons. And there will be some stragglers who for one reason or another don’t make the course. There will be very few of the latter.

The success of the city marathons is that the language is a positive one and they involve a very wide range of people. However, it is important to their success that the best runners enter because they lift the whole field. The leaders create the space for those behind to run into.

Now, here is my concern. We are going through a period of regulation – in my example above, the stragglers – the ones who don’t match up to certain standards, are being removed from the race. If they are in a position to cause harm to others, this would seem to be a sensible aim.

However, the problem is not the regulation itself but the growth of regulatory bodies.

There are ‘stragglers’ in every walk of life and, for longer than I can remember, regulatory bodies have existed as a means of maintaining standards.  For various reasons in recent years, there  has grown the suspicion that people cannot be trusted to regulate themselves and would benefit from outside regulation – an independent committee to look into perceived problems. Not a bad idea on paper.

This was done but the newly-formed regulatory body took on a life of its own. It had the power to decide what aspects of the organisation to regulate and what form that regulation should take. Experts were consulted. Budgets were set. Software was introduced that allowed digitalisation and control. Policies, protocols and procedures were put in place. Managers were appointed. Inspectors were trained. Because there were other regulatory bodies, there was competition for more recognition, financial support and staff. PR became important to show that they were ‘fit for purpose’. Continued regulatory development meant continually changing inspection requirements and increasing imposition on those being regulated.

And suddenly here was an entirely new independent industry with a language of its own and with – ironically (although I doubt irony is their thing), the need for outside regulation to maintain its self-manufactured standards.

Unfortunately, in the caring professions at least, the language of the regulatory bodies is at odds with the language of the physician. A language that ideals with suspicion, fearfulness and dispute will inevitably be at cross-purposes with a language that is based on understanding, respect and trust. The result has been that that  the regulatory bodies have an initial benefit but then limit standards within the health professions.

Let me explain. Take the ‘marathon’ example above: rather than allowing the runners to run their own race, it is as if it has been made compulsory for everyone to run the race in four hours. An intense training regime has been imposed to do this. Yes, some people will raise their game but the ‘four-hour’ training schedule disrupts everyone else’s preparation. The best runners will lose their motivation and go elsewhere and the race loses its spark.

The problem is not the concept of regulation per se. The problem is that the very success of these outside bodies and the language they have created undermines the more constructive language involved in healing. Within the NHS, it is easy to see the language of the regulators competing with the language of business and finance, the language of the large corporation and the language of technology, all of which compete with the core language of the doctors and the nurses.

An “if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear” attitude is counter-productive, as is the encouragement of whistle-blowing as a form of confrontation instead of an opportunity for support. Suspicion invites more suspicion, dispute more dispute.

In my opinion, however exemplary the original aim, the language of the regulatory bodies contributes more towards ours becoming a more pinch-lipped, suspicious and fearful society than towards our becoming a more understanding, respecting and trusting one.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Rough - Teignmouth 2014a

9a/14 True art or painting-by-numbers

07/03/2014

Water's edge - Teignmouth 2006

Having completed the fourteen posts I had set out to write and not yet being satisfied, I am going to insert this as an extra post to see if it helps.

I awoke in the middle of the night not thinking about the practice. So there has been progress of sorts.

What I was thinking about was how to describe in non-digital terms the face-to-face relationship I have been highlighting when I am actually using a digital medium. If I fail to do that then my argument fails and, in my small world, digital technology will have taken over at the expense of a core relationship.

~~~

In the previous two posts I have produced two linear images to demonstrate the continuum of a relationship where ‘Trust’ is at the top and ‘Vindictiveness’ at the bottom. The images consist of straight lines with the various stages marked at more or less equal intervals along the line. In computer-speak, this is a simple algorithm. Algorithms are extremely useful tools from which we can derive policies, protocols and procedures. They have become an essential part of almost every language I have previously mentioned.

However, this way of looking at life has no place in the human relationship I am talking about. There is are complex patterns and rhythms in human relationships. It could be likened to the difference between painting-by-numbers and true art.

In painting-by-numbers an outline drawing is created for the “artist” and a number is assigned to each separate area of the drawing. Each number represents a particular colour and the “artist” is invited to fill the areas in the drawing with that colour. He/she can follow the rules exactly or, if they are feeling a little freer, he/she can change the colours and even meld different areas if they so wish but nevertheless the work is confined to the prescribed drawing. This is how basic software works. However sophisticated software has become (and it has become very sophisticated), the actions of the “artist” are defined by the software. In producing this series, I have used Scrivener, WordPress, Freemind and ACDSee imaging software. I like them all because I can use the framework they provide to put on screen what I am trying to say. The problem is that the very thing I am talking about is even more sophisticated than the software I am using. Hence the painting-by-numbers/true art analogy.

A true artist is faced with a blank canvas. Which colours and where, when and how he/she applies them is entirely a matter between brain and brush. The result is instantly available only to the artist and those immediately present. The purpose of the exercise is to produce a work of art. The quality of that work is confined to the artist and a few others. Dissemination has to wait and in most cases may never happen. So with face-to-face relationships. The quality of the relationship is between the participants and it is for them to value it or not.

To take this further, I have likened a relationship to a painting. However a painting has borders. If we think of it in terms of music then the borders fade away. There is an infinite variety of choices from single notes to complex chords, from quiet to loud, from short notes to long notes and every combination between. The potential is more or less infinite. The extent of the composition is confined by the composer/s.

Mendelssohn wrote that ‘music cannot be expressed in words, not because it is vague but because it is too precise for words’. Man has spent eons trying to put words to relationships – defining and redefining them. The problem is the human condition. When one physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being with all their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths and weaknesses meets another physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being with all their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths and weaknesses, a work of art ensues – it’s value is between the participants. Do you always need to break the resultant interaction into some defined chemical reaction or do you let it germinate and grow? There is a reason for both.

The problem is that the scientific intervention to break it down in the form of digital technology has the means to take the art out of the relationship and my comment is (and please feel free to prove me wrong) that digital technology has so impinged on the language of all sections of society as to be a detriment to the face-to-face relationship that is the core relationship of humanity.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Wave - Bude

9/14 A negative language by default?

06/03/2014

Rough - Teignmouth 2014b

So far, so easy. Now it gets more difficult.

In my previous posts, I have been talking about language – the way we string words together. Now I want to point out that I am also talking about attitudes – patterns of behaviour shaped by the language we use towards each other. I am using the concept of a continuum as the outline for a particular language (and hence the pattern) that I want to highlight.

So . . . if the positive end of the continuum runs upwards from a central point of the neutral meeting, leading to rapport, then understanding, then respect, then trust, (see the previous post), then the negative end of the continuum could be said to descend from that same neutral meeting to being pinch-lipped, suspicious, fearful, aggrieved, mean-spirited and ultimately vindictive.

It is extremely simplistic (not to say arrogant) to try and sum up human behaviour in a straight line. I apologise. I am trying to paint a picture and I have to use words to do it. If the individual words resonate with you then mark them but try and keep the whole picture in mind.

Thus the negative side of the continuum looks like this:

Losing Trust

I suggest that it is very easy to slide from being suspicious to being fearful and aggrieved and, if there is no resolution, then to becoming mean-spirited and ultimately vindictive. Look around you, read the newspapers, watch the news on TV. It is the vindictive end of the continuum that causes the headlines.

However, I wonder if this is so because we expect the other end, the respectful end, to be the norm and the vindictive end to be an unfortunate but rather exciting aberration – containing attitudes that we can explore and exploit because we are assured that all is well really.

The attitudes in the continuum are natural human ones but some are more productive than others in building the civilised, trustworthy, caring society I mentioned in an earlier post. My concern, and the only reason I am pursuing this, is that our breaking down of society into sections, each with its own language, each promoted with increasing success, has resulted in our beginning to neglect to maintain “understanding, respect and trust” across society as a whole and we are in danger of becoming a pinch-lipped, mean-spirited, vindictive society by default.

In the next post, I will put this into context and give a specific example of why I think this is happening.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Gale - Millook 2007

8/14 A language that heals

06/03/2014

Smooth - Torpoint 2006

This series has developed into a comment on language. I have made some general statements; now I want to be more specific.

I have recently retired after forty plus years as a dentist. One of the privileges of being a dentist – (or doctor or any other health-related professional), is that you spend your days meeting a succession of individuals. Each one is a solid, whole, complete human being – a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being with all his/her physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strengths and all his/her physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual weaknesses.

We face this person with all the knowledge, skills and attitudes of our profession that we can muster, knowing that science does not yet have answers to every aspect of their being nor technology the solutions. And, however experienced, I too am a human being with strengths and weaknesses of my own and, as such, not totally master of the art of caring for this person. (This might appear negative but bear with me).

So there we are, together in a room, trying to sort out problems and find solutions. In the dental surgery, these problems, whether current or potential, are predominantly physical. However, all the rest – the intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of the person, come attached.

Not only that but there is a third person in the room – a nurse, with strengths and weaknesses all of his/her own. The three of us could be described as imperfect people living imperfect lives in an imperfect world. And yet, in order to make the interaction worthwhile, we have to find a way of building a productive professional relationship.

Where on earth do you begin?

In the last post, I talked about language, the way people address each other, how languages have become digitalised and how, as a result, the language used by certain groups of people can grow to dominate the language of other groups. There is a constant evolutionary competition where at any one time the language of, say, economics, overwhelms the language of, say, politics, or vice versa.

However, there is a universal language, a particularly important one for the healing professions because it works towards the aim of their particular relationships – to leave the person in better health than when they first met. It is a non-digital language well-known to the physician.

Relationships ebb and flow. However well you get on with someone, you are closer at certain times than at others. Thus there is a sliding scale – a continuum, in a relationship. We tend to be more aware of this in negative situations but it is a common characteristic whether the relationship is positive or negative.

Starting with the time when we did not know this person at all, our first meeting is hopefully a neutral one with no prejudgment. (This is not necessarily so. For reasons stated in the last post, we are already prejudging to a certain extent).

In a positive relationship, the process runs from that first neutral meeting to an initial rapport between the parties, from which emerges a mutual understanding, blossoming into mutual respect and finally a degree of trust – but not necessarily total trust in every aspect of the relationship. (I love you dearly but I probably would not trust you to sail me round Cape Horn!)

Building Trust

Nowadays trust is treated as a right – a label acquired automatically. In reality it is a value that is earned, hence the word ‘trustworthy’. We must go through those stages of rapport, understanding and respect to get there. It is an ‘uphill’ task. Going downhill is much easier. We can lose trust but still retain mutual respect, or lose respect and still retain an understanding of the other person. The relationship is less close but still positive because trust is a result, understanding is the key. And we get to understanding by actively looking for some initial aspect of mutual sympathy or empathy – (that initial rapport) with the other person. This may emerge naturally but more often comes from an opening, an expression of a mutually recognisable idea or feeling provided by one party or the other.

Of course there are specific languages in medicine and dentistry – full of specialist jargon. These should be reserved for doctors, dentists, nurses and everyone else in the health professions. However, the language above is the language of the true physician. It is a relationship-based language, reaching out to individuals, actively working to build relationships that heal.

~~~

In the next post, I will show that the continuum has a negative side to it, one that is much easier to attain. And I will ask the question, “Which end of the continuum is better?”

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Sun on water - Fowey 2008

7/14 A mix of languages

05/03/2014

Tide - Teignmouth 2009

When I talk about language, I do not mean the culture behind a language. Nor do I mean individual jargon words. I mean the way words are strung together – the string of words people speak and the string of words they hear.

What people say and what they hear have always been slightly different but now the gap between what is spoken and what is heard has, in many cases, become a yawning gulf. We consistently talk at cross-purposes. Understanding each other is becoming a major complication in a time when the complexity of modern life demands that we do understand each other and are able to work together.

The days when language was predominantly concerned with national identity or religious identity are gone. Now there is a polyglot of tongues all competing for a place in society, ebbing and flowing between themselves.

As I was growing up, language was pretty well defined – not just the over-riding languages of national identity (English, French, German and so on) but the more subtle range of languages within those national languages – the languages of organised religion, politics, law and order with its legislation and formal legal system, the languages of economics – business, commerce and finance, the languages of science and art, academia and health, not forgetting the language of conflict and war. This was the post Second World War period when we needed to respect languages and work together as the country got back on its feet.

In the sixties, this began to change and other more social languages were added to the mix.

So now we have the languages of equality and human rights, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, generations, aging and retirement, health and well-being and, with the growth of the corporation, corporate language and the language of regulation and dispute – and so on.

And we have increasingly adopted the languages of digital technology, the social media and gaming – languages that are changing and developing at a far, far greater rate than any of the other languages. Moreover, we express ourselves more and more through this digital technology.

Digitalising means converting communication into numbers and code. Putting numbers to ideas and objects implies a precision that may or may not be there in reality. We can now ‘speak’ the above languages in digital form. The power of digital technology gives each language a life and power of its own. The danger is that the increasing specialisation that results divides us rather than unites us.

We need  technology but we need it to feed humanity not humanity to feed technology. The problem is how do we maintain stable human relationships in a society which has put its trust almost totally into digital technology. a medium in which the speed of change makes it inherently unstable?

This is the crux of my argument: all the ‘languages’ mentioned above will continue to evolve in the developing face of technology. However, at the same time, we need to continue to develop and respect the non-digital language of face-to-face relationships. Because this is the core language of humanity - the basic unit of human interaction. 

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Turbulence - Torquay 2007

6/14 A Matter of Language

03/03/2014

Ripples - Rethymnon 2009

I’m in a similar position as everyone else who finishes their day-job. I worked in the same disciplined fashion for over forty years and now I’ve stopped. I want to move on to other activities with a different way of working but my mind and body are still geared to my previous life. I am still thinking in “dentist language”.

The job was intense. My days were spent developing close professional relationships – closer than in many other occupations; not just intellectual relationships but relationships with strong physical and emotional elements too. You’ve been to the dentist, you know what I mean.

You might also recognise that the relationship your dentist has with you is different from that with the patient before you and different again from the patient after you. Indeed, it may be different with you from the last time you were there. A dentist spends the day riding a constantly shifting pattern of relationships. It is a deeply rewarding but intensely demanding career. After forty years, enough is enough.

As I keep mentioning, shaking it off is taking a little time. It is easy to slip back into ‘professional’ mode. Dentistry is about health, comfort, function and appearance. It covers a wide range of knowledge, skills and attitudes that spread well beyond the surgery. I won’t lose those interests, but I haven’t been away from them long enough to get used to this new way of using them.

And, as I begin to stand away, keeping a sharp look-out for rocks and shoals, I once again notice the language I am using – (the insistently nautical one!), and the way I am using it to describe my current situation.

The use of language has been a constant interest and increasing concern in the last few years because I – and I am sure many others in the health professions, have become increasingly aware that the language that we use in everyday practice has evolved away from the language we originally learnt to use to build trustworthy, one-to-one relationships – those relationships which we, as patients, reach out for when we seek professional help - (yes, I am a potential patient as well as a professional)

What I am describing is a natural evolution driven by the effects of modern life:

  • The complexity and expense of new technology;
  • New developments occurring at shorter and shorter intervals;
  • Each new development uncovering yet more challenges requiring still more solutions;
  • Each solution having little time to bed in before the next new solution takes over;
  • With the result that we are being pushed and pulled in different directions without fully understanding the issues;
  • Understanding comes from being fully informed. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of information we are presented with under the guise of transparency and clarity has created a situation in which transparency and clarity are beginning to lose meaning as they bemuse, confuse and ultimately inhibit the interest of those they are designed to inform;
  • And, crucially, the language and culture this invites directly affects the building of those above-mentioned one-to-one relationships between professionals and patients.

In the newspapers, on television and online the cry for solutions is increasingly driven by extreme language – language that excites the excitable and upsets the vulnerable, with the result that society appears to be increasingly moulded by seemingly random regulation monitored by self-propelled regulatory bodies who have developed a language entirely of their own.

And yet there is a navy of practitioners, consultants, nurses and managers out there with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to overcome this – to deal with the complexity of modern life while maintaining effective professional relationships with individual patients.

If we want to be treated as a civilised, trustworthy, caring society, then the right questions need to be put in a common language that we can all understand and join in resolving. The right questions come from the people on the ground. It is rediscovering a common language that is the problem.

In fact, the term ‘common language’ is misleading as it implies one language – I really mean a subtle mix of languages. I do not have a problem with different languages per se, but I do query the increasing dominance of languages that ignore the core language – the language of face-to-face human relationships.

In the next post, we will explore this in more detail.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Tide - Torpoint 2006


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