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FUNNIES UPLIFTINGS AMAZINGS AND WEE-WISDOMSPart 1:
I wrote the following little bit of prose entitled: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry due to the many humorous and not-so-humorous, uplifting and not-so-uplifting, amazing and not-so-amazing, wise and not-so-wise emails I've received in the last 20 years. My guess is that about 5% of all the emails I’ve received from 1992 to 2012, from that first year when emails began to enter my life are of this genre.
I hope you enjoy the following summary of my experience of what you might call, and I have called "a sub-category of the email industry". This little bit of prose which follows is a 5000 word digest of the twenty page, 10,000 word, essay that did NOT make it into Dr. Funwisdum's new book Human Communication in the Twenty-First Century, editor, Harry Funwisdum, Oxford University Press, 2011.
Dr. Funwisdum rejected my contribution to his book, but encouraged me to try for his next collection so impressed was he with the quality of the short essay which follows. I trust you enjoy it, too, even if it is a little longer than my normal emails to readers who send me examples from this genre. Even if this post is a little too critical of the genre of emails with which it is concerned. If you don't enjoy what you read here, I'm sure you will at least tolerate its presence. We must all, in and out of the world of emails, increasingly learn to tolerate each other's eccentricities, our individual style of normality, and each other's personal proclivities--thus making the world an easier place to live in.
Recently, since my retirement from full-time, part-time and casual work in the years 1999 to 2005, I have been writing prolifically and, although I am neither famous nor rich, I like to think I am churning out some provocative, entertaining and intellectually stimulating stuff from my word-factory near the mouth of the Tamar River, at Port Dalrymple, here in northern Tasmania at the last stop on the way to Antarctica if you take the western-Pacific-rim-route. Of course, what one likes to think and what the reality is about one’s writing or, indeed, anything else is often at significant variance.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Updated on 1 January 2011.
To : All Senders of
'Funnies, Upliftings, Amazings and Wee-Wisdoms
From : Ron Price
Date : 1 January 2013
Subject : A Genre of the Email Industry
I hope you enjoy this little piece of gentle satire, perhaps sarcasm is a more accurate word, analysis and comment. It will serve as a more detailed response to the many emails I have received over the last 20 years, 1992 to 2012, emails which were intended to be either funny or uplifting, amazing or wise and, occasionally, all four.
In my first years in Perth Western Australia, while working at the Thornlie Campus, now part of the Swan Tafe system, my first contact with email systems began. There is virtually no one I am writing to now and from whom I received emails then in 1992 who is on my current email list. That email list was an in-house list at the college where I worked. It was not until the mid-to-late 1990s that my email list began to expand and in the last ten years, 2002 to 2012, it has burgeoned to proportions that I attempt to manage as best I can.
When one is not teaching sociology and the several social sciences and humanities, as I had been doing for so many years; when one is not having one’s mind kept busy by a hundred students a week and trying, at the same time, to be a father, husband, friend, neighbour and citizen; when one retires from the employment, the job-world which has been at the centre of one’s life for decades, other things come in of necessity, if one is to be happily engaged with one’s existence. For me, one of these things is writing, posting on the internet and responding to the inevitable emails that result from all this writing.
Emails need to be given some sort of analysis, at least the genre I am concerned with here, due to their frequency as a form of communication during these 20 years. This piece, this email, this essay or article is probably a little too long given the general orthodoxy of most personal email communication which tends to be shorter and shortest—before the intended readers and/or writers give up entirely and simply go off the email radar screen and are heard from no more.
This tendency to brevity is not true of all my correspondents, though, some of whom send me many a long piece of print usually written by someone else and sent as an attachment or a cut-and-paste exercise. Not everyone is into writing any more than everyone is into gardening or cooking, washing the car or shopping, dusting or vacuuming, among a myriad other activities on a regular basis.
Perhaps you could see this missive from yours-truly as one of the long articles on the internet that you need to copy for future reading rather than seeing it as one of those quick-hit-emails you receive as part of your daily or weekly quota. Then, with this alternative framework in mind, perhaps, your emotional equipment will be able to make a positive adjustment to this lengthy, some might say verbose, piece of communication which I send for your pleasure.
Here is a SUMMARY STATEMENT below. If you read this summary it may help you avoid having to read this entire post.
Receiving so many funnies, upliftings, amazings, and words-of-wisdom as I have month-after-month, week-after-week, for over some 20 years now, from a small coterie of people, a coterie which changes with the months and years, I thought I would try to respond more befittingly than I normally do with my perfunctory and usually brief set of phrases and sentences, if indeed I respond at all, to these sometimes delightful, sometimes funny, sometimes wise and wonderful pieces---and sometimes tiresome in their frequency----that are sent to me with regularity. It is a regularity that reminds me of my many days and years, especially the ones in Australia, as a teacher when I was the recipient of similar pieces of humour and wisdom on A-4 paper and not in cyberspace.
Australia is a country where humour is just about compulsory and as much a part of the daily diet as the air—and one must deal with it--if one is survive happily--that is! What you find below is intended as a reflective piece that sets all these wisdoms, upliftings, amazings, and funnies I receive from you--and others--in some perspective, a perspective that derives in large measure from my years, as I say, as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator.
I am now a poet and publisher, writer and author, editor and researcher, online blogger and journalist, independent scholar and retiree. For well-nigh half a century now I have been imbibing funnies, upliftings, amazings and wisdoms from a multitude of sources. It is probably these years as a teacher, though, that have resulted in my habit, engrained after all these years, of responding if I can to any and all incoming snailmail and email, notes and written messages from others.
I enjoyed teaching but, as the years approached thirty-in-the-game, that is by 1999, I got tired of much of what was involved in the process. At the same time, as this fatigue was developing, I experienced a simultaneous life-enrichment from writing prose and poetry and a certain increase in sensory sensitivity and awareness.
I’m not sure why this was but it was the case---and I just had to get out of the teaching game, a game I had been in since 1967. As the 1990s advanced and the new, the 3rd, millennium opened I retired from teaching and went on a new medication cocktail for my bipolar disorder(BPD). The positive processes of writing and sensory awareness that had begun in the 1990s increased many fold. Fatigue only returned in 2001 from time to time during the day and again at the end of eight to twelve hours of reading and writing, hours which are not consecutive but punctuated by many breaks of various time-frames. This fatigue is also a natural bi-product of the medication cocktail, my mood stabilizer and anti-depressant meds, for my BPD.
By 2012, as I revise this essay, this article, I now spend 11 to 12 hours a day in bed due to my new medication. With 4 to 6 hours a day attending to the inevitable domestic and marital, social and community activity, I am left with only 6 to 8 hours of writing and editing, poetizing and publishing. The emails and the occasional letter as well as the assortment of incoming items I have summarized above---and which I receive now are somewhat like pieces of work I used to have to mark.
It’s part of my life-work, my responsibility, my role and my task in life to respond to them. It is only courtesy; at least that is how I see it! It is also my burden of duty. Like making comments on the work of students, I now respond to emails and letters with courtesy and with honesty. This is not always easy to make what is for me an appropriate response; courtesy and honesty do not sit easily together, especially if the content of the received material is, for me, neither funny nor edifying, as is the case with so much of the material I receive and have received over the years—again like much of the stuff I had to mark as a teacher and lecturer, a tutor and editor.
It has been 20 years(1992-2012) since the email began to be part of my daily life, after several years of warm-up from, say, 1988 to 1991 while I was a Tafe teacher and the email system was making its entry into post-secondary educational systems if I recall correctly. Those earliest years of emailing, though, are somewhat vague now after the passing of those two decades, but the last decade, 2002 to 2012, is not vague insofar as emails are concerned. It has been an avalanche not unlike the marking that was my responsibility to handle as a teacher for more than 30 years. I must say, though, that I now get hardly any emails concerned with the size of my penis or the number of orgasms I'm having these days.
This short think-piece in which I am attempting to summarize the 20 years of experience with this sub-genre of emails is but a series of reflections. It is also a form of tribute, of celebration, of the many advantages of reading the products of this wonderful mechanism of technology—the world-wide-web--and its products which are, sadly, not always rewarding or intellectually engaging.
I think I write this for me more than I do for you since the thrust of so much of this sub-genre of email communication does not, for the most part, require any reflection, or at least a minimum of reflection on the part of the sender of the material, although I’m sure some who send me material spend hours hunting stuff down. I get an average of two pieces a day and have now for about ten years from an octogenarian in Texas. Sending this sort of material is a central part of her life-work. She is unable to walk and nearly unable to breath but her persistence with this sub-genre of the email industry is staggering. She primarily means to entertain and inform, like so much of TV and the print and electronic media for millions, she/it generally accomplishes this task. Hence its popularity.
I won’t give you a list of the others who send me samples of this material for there are many: frequent senders and the occasional and everything in-between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against infotainment; indeed, I am heavily engaged in it as a writer. Infotainment is now part-and-parcel of most popular writing if it is to have any success, if it is to find any readers. The term has now been coined for these print resources: infotainment. I'm sure that the entertainment function is the primary reason for the success of this sub-genre of communication. Quick hits, as so many emails are, like jokes themselves-"affections arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing," as the philosopher Emmanuel Kant once defined laughter, on occasion stir the mind or the heart, or both, or the eye which is often quicker than the mind.
Perhaps these emails they are a sign of "a mind lively and at ease,” as Emma once said in Jane Austin's book by the same name. These quick hits require quick responses, if any at all. Many of the emails, as I say above, the funnies, the upliftings, amazings and the wee-wisdoms--are uplifting and funny, wise and amazing and sometimes, as I say, all four. But given their frequency over the last two decades, I felt like making some statement about them. Perhaps it is the slight itch they have created in my sensory emporium that causes me to write this piece of expository reflection.
I remember listening to the famous Australian author Tim Winton express his concern for what, from his point of view, was a wasted use of a wonderful technology, the technology in cyberspace. My feelings do not run as deep as Winton’s; I have little to no angst over this internet form, this “I want to tickle your fancy” type of communication. In Australia it’s part of a modus vivendi, part of a leg-pulling, pleasure-loving ethos with its cynical beneath surface mentality, Downunder. It is a mode, a manner, I have come to enjoy for it has helped to give me a balance, a balance to the quite serious side of my life which I brought with me in 1971 when I moved to Australia from Canada after having been raised by religious and politically oriented parents who were in their forties and fifties when I was born.
Some writers and analysts see this genre as part of the trivialization of the human battle, the denial of tragedy, the dislike of authority, part of a defence mechanism to ward off real personal commitment. Such writers see the authors of this form of communication here in Australia as a form of communication based on the desire to escape and to dismiss all self-questioning as ratbaggery. Ronald Conway, Australia’s most famous clinical psychologist, puts it this way. Others see it as part of a chronically skeptical society as the literary critic Susan Langer once defined so much of the output of the electronic media factories?
I hope you don't find this little think-piece too heavy, too much thinking, too long--without the quick-natural-lift, message or laugh that is part of this particular sub-genre of emails. In the end you may see me as too critical but, as I used to say to my students, that is the risk you take when you open your mouth or write or send items my way. It is a risk we all take in the game of life and communicating with others.
Being nice is, for me, part of the great Canadian white-way and has been all my life; perhaps this epistle is just a means, a tool, for a man now in the evening of his life, to balance off all this niceness with some elements of my ego, my dark, my animalistic heritage which I have been struggling with successfully and unsuccessfully, at least with only partial success all my life. With my new, my fifth major medication package in more than forty years, though, I am gradually achieving a balance. Such are the advances in medicine for which I am truly thankful. I’d like to be able to put this all down to spiritual development but, sadly, this I cannot do. When I am without my medication, I descend into an abyss which seems to be some other person, a person I do not like and do not want to live with. But life, on and off the internet, has its perils for all of us, eh?
In a more general sense, I have been giving and receiving various forms of advice/wisdom for some 67 years now: 2011 back to 1943 when I was in my mother's womb and she was imbibing, as she so often did, the earliest 20th century form of positive thinking and Christianity from Norman Vincent Peale's radio program which my mother first heard in the years before she met my father circa 1940. The program was called "The Art of Living" which began in 1935. In 1952 Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking which has now sold over 7 million copies.
By the early 1950s my mother began to read to me passages each morning from The Daily Word, a publication of the Unity School of Christianity with its world centre in Madison Wisconsin, if I recall correctly after all these years. I see those readings now as the experience of my first mantras. Then, in those same early fifties, when my mother began to take an interest in the Baha'i cause, I was exposed to Baha'i prayers. Baha'i was a religion that had been in Canada, then in those early fifties, for a little more than fifty years and the books my mother read from, English translations of Persian and Arabic Baha'i prayers, were just beginning to be published in prayer books. I found those words beautiful then and I still do after the slow evolution of nearly sixty years.
Life began to assume a more serious aspect in the years of my late childhood(1953 to 1957) and, then, in my teens: school, sport, girls and entertainment found some competition in life's round of activities from the more earnest side of life. I first imbibed wisdom as a student from the several founts of knowledge I was then exposed to or that I investigated as a youth, a period I have always defined as those years in their teens and twenties taking-in as that period did the years of early adulthood.
Then wisdom came my way as a teacher and lecturer, tutor and adult educator in the social sciences and humanities—including such subjects as human relations, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, and working in teams as well as a list of subjects as long as your proverbial arm. During those years trying to communicate stuff to others I received and dispensed advice and wisdoms in a multitude of forms. I was clearly into the advice and wisdom absorbing and dispensing business right from the dawn of my life. It was part of the very air I breathed.
I'm sure even in those years of unconsciousness, in utero, and in the years of early childhood where no memories reside, I had my very earliest experiences of wee-wisdoms, although funnies were in short supply during the war and shortly thereafter, at least in my consanguineal family. My mother was one of those seekers, always willing to try on a new idea if it came into town. And now, more than thirty years after her passing, I have a small book of the wee-wisdoms she collected in her half a century of collecting from the late 1920s, in her early twenties, to her death in 1978. They were sent to me by my mother’s sister, an equally serious and religious person as my mother.
I should by now be a fount of unusually perspicacious aphorisms from the wisdom literature of history or, at the very least, I should run 'wisdom workshops' for the lean and hungry. The funnies department of my life, though, as a child, as an adolescent or in the first decade of my young adult life from 20 to 30, was never as extensive or successful as the wee-wisdom section. Right from my first exposure to jokes about: Newfees, Polocks and the Irish or the genitals of males and females and their mutual interconnections, I generally found much of the humour distasteful. So it was back in my late childhood and adolescence; perhaps this was due to the gently puritanical and pious(perhaps religious is just the right word) upbringing I had, an upbringing I now appreciate to the full, although not in its entirety then.
I must confess, indeed I am pleased to acknowledge, that 40 years of living in Australia(1971-2011) has taught me a rich appreciation of the funny side of life probably due to the humour that lurks both below the surface and at the surface of so much of Australian culture and inevitably bubbles to the surface in this essentially pleasure-loving people. Australian stoicism is strengthened by this ability to see the lighter side of life. In this dry dog-biscuit of a continent, with a beauty all its own and where fires burn up part of its landmass every summer from December to March, and droughts and floods also do their share of damage, humour is, as I say above, virtually compulsory.
By now, I should have an accumulation of jokes-and-funnies to keep everyone laughing in perpetuity. And I did by 1999. By the time I retired and as I headed toward the new millennium and away from FT teaching, I had a whole section of my filing cabinet stocked with items, with funnies, received from my students, in their hope that I could see the funny side of life--and occasionally I did.
Now, in the evening of my life, I feel a little like the marriage guidance counsellor who has been married six times. He has never been able to pull-it-off, marriage that is, but he has had a lot of experience trying. For some nine years, during the final part of my educative process as a full-time teacher(1990-1999)--and educative it was--I used to give out "a summary of the wisdom of the ages" on several sheets of A-4 paper to the approximately one hundred students I had every term or semester. One of the strong threads in this summary of wisdom literature were several quotations from Murphy’s Law, a set of sayings that contained many grains of truth and humour and which had gained a high degree of popularity in Australia. Thousands of intending students of leisure and life and I went through the material to see if we could come up with the 'wisest of the wise' stuff, practical goodies for the market-place and for the inner man or woman. For the most part I enjoyed the process. Giving and receiving advice was a buzz, particularly when it was sugar-coated with humour. Advice-giving can be a tedious activity and the advice can act as a weight even if it is good advice, unless the context is right. Humour often makes it right.
Now that the evening of my life is in full swing, the wee-wisdoms, the upliftings and the funnies continue to float in or on cyberspace unavoidably, inevitably, at least the inevitability comes if one is open to human contact in that increasingly popular domain. From emails and the internet, among other sources, material is obtained from my interlocutors which they, in turn, obtain from:
(i) the wisdom literature of the great historical religions;
(ii) the wisdom of the philosophical traditions
(outside traditional religions);
(iii) the wisdom of popular psychology and the social sciences
….usually from the fields of: (a) human relations, (b) interpersonal skills, (c) pop-psychology, (d) management and organizational behaviour and (e) endless funnies, upliftings and wee-wisdoms from known & unknown word and audio-visual factories; and
(iv) the electronic media.
The social sciences provide the disciplines in which so much of the wisdom literature I receive is now located. The social sciences are either old: like history, philosophy and religion; or young: like economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology and human relations, inter alia. Unlike some of the other academic fields, say the biological and physical sciences, all these social sciences are inexact, highly subjective and infinitely more complex than the physical and biological sciences--or so I see them anyway. Everybody and their dog can play at dispensing their wisdoms, with the dogs sometimes providing the best advice in the form of close friendships, at least for some people with canine proclivities. Unlike the physical and biological sciences, too, knowledge and experience is not required.
Anyone can play the game. Often the untutored and apparently ignorant and those who have read nothing at all in the field, can offer humble wisdoms and funnies which excel the most learned, with or without their PhDs. So be warned: it's a mine field, this advice and wisdom business. It’s highly democratic, individualistic, egalitarian. The result for many practitioners who would really like to be both wise and entertaining is the experience of a field that resembles a mud-pie, poorly constructed and not of much use to humanity, although lots of laughs are had and wisdom gets distributed liberally—which, as far as it goes, obviously has some use to us all in what very well may be the darkest hours in the history of civilization. Who would want to deny or prevent the liberal effusion of this new art form? The industry, the word factories, pour out their wisdoms and their humour with greater frequency at every passing day.
I often wonder how that fountain of the Enlightment, Voltaire, would have coped Downunder. He said he never had one "ha ha" in his whole life. I think he would have gone home to France pretty fast on a boat with the whinging-poms, if he had ever come to Australia way back when in the years of the Enlightenment over two centuries ago.
And so I begin or, should I say, end with apologies all-round to any who might take offence here. But I felt like having a little think about this sub-genre of emails at this 20 year mark(1991-2011) in my email-life. On what you might call my wisdom/advice-lifeline, I have just entered the middle years(65-75) of my late adulthood, the years form 60 to 80 as some human development psychologists call them. As I, and you, continue to imbibe the endless supply of resources available from the endless supply of word and audio-visual factories, we will continue to get both our laughs, our funnies, our wisdoms, our upliftings and the endless aphorisms. And we should thank the Lord for them! For who would want a life without laughs and/or without wisdom?
I hope my satire, my sarcasm, here is gentle and does not bite too hard or at all. Canadians are, on the whole, a nice people who try to perform their operations on their patients in such a way that their patients leave the hospital without the suspicion that these patients have even been operated on at all, but with the new glands, the new body parts, fully installed for daily use. Like the pick-pocket and the burglar, I want to get in-there-and-out without alerting anyone to my work. A state of total anaesthesia is helpful during the process.
The New Testament calls it, or so one could argue, the act of: 'The Thief in the Night,' or so one could render one possible interpretation. The phrase was applied to prophecy when Christ said He would come again. But, again, this is a prophecy capable of many interpretations, as all prophecies are. I send this communication your way in response to the many emails I've received in this sub-genre in recent months/years. There are, perhaps, a dozen people now who are 'into this sub-genre' and who send me this special type of material in the course of a year, some with a zeal bordering on the religious or should I say the fanatical. This dozen sends me many delightful pieces, more it seems as the years go by, including photos, images, attachments of various kinds and colours, to embellish the content of the wisdom and humour.
I feel, after so many years of giving out my jokes as a teacher, that it is only fair that I now receive humour and wisdom as graciously as mine were accepted by my students over those many years. Like my in-class jokes, some of the material I receive is funny, some not-so-funny; some is wise, some not-so-wise. But, then, you can't win them all. Both wisdom and humour are hopefully irrepressible quotients, at least in some people. And again, perhaps, we have the Lord to thank for that. So, carry on gang with your own particular brand of giving and receiving. Who am I to put a lid on your enthusiasms?
I have noticed, might I add parenthetically, that some enthusiastic senders of these email goodies often drop off the radar-screen suddenly and their goodies are seen no more or, at least, far less than they once were in the hey-day of their goodie-sending life. There are, of course, many reasons for this that one might hypothesize: a change in their life’s role, a drop or a rise in their lifeline status, a desire to save downloading space in their monthly allocation from their internet provider, a desire to save money for the process can be costly, a simple fatigue with the process of getting and sending(by which as the poet Wordsworth once said “we lay waste our powers”)-- for one can only get overkill, overdone, overwork, overstate, overfully, so many times. Sometimes such enthusiasts completely drop-out of the email game. As their life goes in other directions their output moves to other domains.
As Gore Vidal, a man of irrepressible humour and erudition as he criticizes American society from his home in Italy, once said, “our whole society has laughing-gas pumped into its billions of lounge-rooms every night--as the world continues its mad, mad race and pace.” Can one get tired of laughing? Who knows? But there is definitely a lifeline, a lifespan, a life-funny-line trajectory for each person who gets into the funny-uplifting-wee-wisdom sending and receiving business. It does not continue at the same pace year after year in perpetuity. And thank the Lord for that.
George Bernard Shaw used to say that: "I can no more write what people want than I can play the fiddle to a happy company of folk-dancers." So he wrote what he thought his readers needed. What people need and what they want are usually not the same. Many found George presumptuous. I hope that readers here will not find this essay in the same category as Shaw's---presumptuous that is. I hope, too, that this somewhat lengthy read has been worth your while. If not, well, you now have......ten choices regarding what to do next:
A FOLLOW-UP EXERCISE FOR READERS
(i) delete the above;
(ii) print and save the above for pondering because it's wise, clever
and something quite personal from the sender;
(iii) read it again now, then delete it;
(iv) save the very good bits and delete the rest;
(v) none of the above;
(vi) all of the above, if that is possible;
(vii) write your own think-piece on this sub-genre of emails;
(viii) send me a copy of your 'writing on this sub-genre of emails'
for: (a) my evaluation(1)and/or (b) my pleasure;
(ix) don't send your evaluation to me; and
(x) don't think about what I've written; just dismiss it as the
meandering of a man moving speedily within the early years of his late adulthood.
If time permits from your busy life rate the above piece of writing using either the scale:
A (91-100), A(81-90) and A-(75-80); B (71-74),B(68-70) and B-(65-67); C (60-64, C(55-59) and C-(50-54); D(25-49 hold and try again) and E(0-24 attend a workshop on 'wisdoms and funnies')---or
You might prefer to provide feedback in an anecdotal form with: (a) commentary, (b) advice, (c) suggestions for improvement, (d) et cetera. Just forward it to Dr. Funwisdom via myself. And I will
.....remain yours sincerely and, I hope, faithfully
6 Reece Street
Pipe Clay Bay
South George Town
Updated On: 31/12/’12
No. of Words: 5000