Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This is me being a communications geek

I’m Sure The Laughter Eases The Sting: "

Submitted by: S. VonDoom via Submission Page"

As you may or may not know, I studied interpersonal communication in grad school, with a strong focus on communication technologies. At the intersection of interpersonal & technology, I've been fascinated to watch the emergence of emoticons as a new non-verbal written language. As far as I know, this is the first example in history! (It's possible there's something in one of the hieroglyphic languages, but that's not a field I'm familiar with) While not a true emoticon, LOL and all its derivatives fall into this category in my mind, as they are text-based indicators of emotional state and non-verbal information (laughter being non-verbal).

What really fascinates me is when people use LOL incorrectly. Granted, there's the argument that all communication is defined by usage, so if theory doesn't match field observation then theory is wrong. Ignoring that for now (for reasons I'll explain later upon request), I saw a lot in chatrooms LOL being used to take the sting out of insults. Or possibly indicate laughing at the target of the barb.

Assuming the more generous possibility for now, the idea seemed to be that LOL next to a phrase such as, "You suck!" indicated it was a joke. I'm laughingly, playfully telling one of my friends they suck. If this is true, it's an example of assumed over-familiarity, because this behavior often occurred between complete strangers. Saying IRL, "You suck, haha!" makes the insult worse. So this is an intriguing evolution, and somewhat contrary. Fine, and a natural growth of the phoneme (what's a nonverbal phoneme? A noneme?), but it stuck out in my mind because LOL is supposed to be an indication that I am physically laughing at the time I type this. Typing LOL at your own joke is as gauche as laughing at your own jokes. And laughing IRL to indicate that something was meant to be a joke is usually a sign the joke failed. Miserably.

Makes me wonder what was meant in the exchange captured above. Was it an attempt to lighten the situation? Break the tension? An overly cute attempted greeting (I walk into the room smiling and giggling, even when it's bad news!)? It's unclear. Maybe one of the participants will find this and elucidate.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Game Theory Visualized

I wonder if Zach realizes how often he gets cited, positively, on a blog about religion, and if he'd feel he was doing something wrong if he did know.

Best explanation of Game Theory I've ever seen:

I'm not the first, and neither is Zach, to suggest this, but it's unfortunate how often religion gets forced into the position of being a juvenile form of social control. We need that type of guidance and limitation when we're young ("Alcohol is bad!", "If you go outside without a jacket you'll get sick!", "Vote Republican or the terrorists will win!"), but hopefully most of us outgrow it.

Ironically, I blame nostalgia. There are people that are just plain not intelligent enough to grasp more complex social contracts and interpretations of religion, but fortunately (and sadly) that's not most people. Even those with below-average intelligence can learn to grasp ideas like, "This is not always true, but it's a convenient way to teach." I think most people just want to keep their religion the way it was when they were kids.

I think the biggest problems people have with religion start because we continue to experience religion and the divine (however you define it) as we did when we were children. This is damaging to individuals in the short term and societies in the long term. An entire culture based around powerful-but-distant-daddy-issues is not a healthy one.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Conversations With The Rabbi

Had a great talk tonight with our Temple's rabbi.

...and I wanted to say a lot about it, but apparently it's one of those that had too deeply personal an impact for me to process and share right away. That or I'm stalling.


I asked her opinion of some of the independent rabbinic schools, and her answers led us into a very open, frank discussion about the education, job, and life of a rabbi, and I completely got it. She made me realize my doubts aren't necessarily problematic, and to some extent they will never really go away.

One of the questions we discussed was why does everyone that feels drawn to Jewish life & work feel that becoming a rabbi is the only way to express it? Would it be possible to get the same benefit, spiritual/intellectual development, and community involvement by, hypothetically, being director of a JCC and taking lots of night classes?

Well, frankly, yes. That's a large part of the problem.

But having her ask me this made me do something I haven't done much recently; I had to argue my case for wanting to be a rabbi instead of taking this other path. And that forced me to refine a couple things in my mind to the point I could express them as arguments..

Basically, a large part of it is a matter of direction and perspective. I wouldn't become a rabbi so that I could be that JCC director, but if I became a rabbi and then took a job as JCC director that would be fine. Small difference, but important one.

Also, I want the link to Jewish communal life to extend beyond my current job. When I was bouncing around the non-profit world in a previous life, I felt at times like a mercenary. I will care deeply and passionately about whatever cause I am paid to believe in. What'cha got, heart disease? Great; let's go fundraise for that. Last week it was starvation in Afghanistan, and next week it'll be adopted children with developmental difficulties, but for now I completely and truly care about heart disease. It started feeling shallow and false, and completely at odds with the reasons I got into non-profit work. Being a rabbi is, first of all, for me. More than that, it represents the link, the common thread in my life. I may work with a congregation, or a summer camp, or a JCC, but as I move between those worlds I will still be a rabbi.

I don't know if I explained that well, it's gotten late and I've had a long day, but that's the evening's epiphany.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I forgot to mention...

Been busy lately. In all the hubbub I forgot to post to the blog...

...I'm getting married!

I can't believe I've been writing a Jewish blog for...how long now? Almost two years? And I missed out on the chance to write about Jewish wedding law! Oh, and to share the news with my friends and readers; that too.

It probably says something about me that posting important news online was not one of my early thoughts; I hope it's something good.