Stevieslaw: Eye Contact-Voices Column for May

Eye Contact: The LAguide to Becoming a Human.
Last Thursday night at a dinner at my Cousin Myron’s house, our Uncle Arthur was using all of his verbal skills to try to convince the assembly that maintaining the minimum wage at $2.13 an hour for employees receiving tips (think waiters and waitresses) was essential to preserving the economic well-being of the nation. Arthur should be an expert in economics. After all, he has an awful lot of money—all of which he inherited from two hardworking and doting parents. Arthur is the owner of a number of franchise restaurants and wears his bias like a badge. As the verbal assault continued, Myron kept trying to engage his daughter, Marta, by raising his eyebrows two or three times and following it with a wink—a universal symbol, he believed, for “what a crock.” But, it was not until Arthur finally finished his monologue and his son Marvin came up and said, “You should have your eyes checked dad, you have a funny twitch” that he realized his kids were not getting it. By the time Myron had engaged me with a look that I recognized as both wistful and quizzical, both teens had returned to their I-lives.
We’ve all seen the photo of six or seven young people walking along in a line like ducklings, each concentrating on messaging someone through the latest app. A photo we have enjoyed, I might add, because someone had, instead of laughing, recorded it on his I-Phone. In Dear Abby this week a man lamented the loss of his wife to an I-phone addiction. And just today on Facebook, Google invited all of us to join a virtual dinner—with virtual diners, virtual food and virtual conversation. Sure, it might be more fun than sitting next to Cousin Martha, who insists on chewing each morsel thirty times while not giving up on conversation. But Martha is real. She is filled with a quirky humanity not neatly communicated by text. Is it any wonder that we, as a nation, have turned to the “I got mine,” politics of the Tea Party or embraced the singularly cold philosophy of Ayn Rand, whose dismal world view is best expressed in her 80 page book “The Virtue of Selfishness?” Our connections—human to human, it seems, are in danger of being permanently broken. To save the day, we at Stevieslaw, are pleased to publish, “Eye Contact*: The Less-intelligent-than-average American Guide to Becoming a Human.” To construct the guide contacted experts in fields as diverse as psychiatry, psychology, mammalian physiology, and extraterrestrial life. We even were in touch with the “not a robot” Mitt Romney prep team. In the guide, you will learn to distinguish DNA based life from forms based on electromagnetic radiation and “senses” from probes. You will then go on to become human through serious study and exercise in the areas of:
1. Eye Contact: Use your facial expressions and learn to read the facial expressions of others—not constantly wired—to silently connect, human to human. Learn to smile, frown, and wink. With practice, you will learn to use your face to express a wealth of human emotions—joy, sorrow, boredom and exasperation, in a manner other humans can cue into. Learn to read the facial expressions of others—providing you with more time to duck for cover.
2. Body Language: Learn to attune yourself to the subtle signals other humans emit just by the way they hold their bodies while sitting, reclining or standing. Learn to send signals of your own. Just imagine the power in knowing that you are boring a dozen people to death—by observing their twitches, yawns and body positioning— when telling that story about your grandfather’s childhood for the fiftieth time.
3. Listening: Come to realize that the buzz you hear above the voice of your instant messenger—what you have thought of as background noise—is the sound of others trying to communicate. We term such sounds “speech” and though you will quickly learn that some people abuse speech by talking to little or not enough, speech is the way you and others can express your thoughts, without the need for finger motions. Speech between two or more humans is sometimes called conversation and this advanced concept is also thoroughly covered in the guide.
4. Touch: Yes, it is possible to reach out and touch another human, without the fear of being indicted and sent to a prison devoid of electronics. A hand shake, a pat on the back or the head, even a hug can express a human to human connection that can last even longer than your battery charge. Perhaps, forever.
5. Field Work: At the end of a month of study, we will send to your home or office a person, who you can call Phyllis, (recently laid off from your public library) so you can practice human emotions such as compassion, empathy, rage and boredom with a real human companion.
Be a mensch. Pick up “Eye Contact” wherever the guide is sold and be on your way to becoming human.

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This entry was posted in Humor, parody, sleepless in state college. Bookmark the permalink.

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