Political Party Or Independent?

On this blog, we try to avoid political issues that might divide people. But here’s a topic that we hope won’t be too divisive: do you feel it is better to belong to a specific political party, or to remain independent? What are the advantages or drawbacks of each choice?

Share why if you wish.

How Can We Encourage Meaningful Conversation?

Sometimes it seems like conversation is a dying art.

We don’t talk much anymore. In-depth discussions have been replaced with small talk. Long, rambling phone calls are now five second Vine videos. A ten page, hand-written letter is now a text message.

Why is this?

Generally, there are many reasons for this change. Technology, in the form of smart phones and social media, encourages brevity. We are warned to avoid controversial topics as a way of keeping the peace. In addition, an entire generation of young adults have grown up online, where tone of voice and body language are non-existent.

As a result, we grow ever more isolated from those around us. People are not confronted with differing opinions. We don’t often talk to people with opposing views, and when we do it devolves to a shouting match. Violence is increasingly more common. Consequently, entire communities are dismissed and ignored.

Is it all bad?

And yet, we still crave conversation. We want to be intellectually stimulated. Ted Talks, for example, are wildly popular, and can be thought of as the first half of a conversation. The vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, are YouTube celebrities based on their ongoing weekly video chats. So the desire exists in each of us for communication of ideas, and the act of sharing them with our friends and acquaintances.

So how can we revive the art of conversation? How do we overcome our dependency on the endless Facebook newsfeed scroll, and engage each other in an actual dialogue? Can we recapture the give and take, the challenge of ideas, the talk for sake of the talk? In short, to be exposed to new ideas and new points of view?

How can we encourage meaningful conversation?

Related questions: What do we have in common? How can we encourage debate? Are we too busy? How can we become better listeners? What do you get out of social media?

What Do You Think About Facebook?

Facebook is one of the most influential companies of the last several decades. It has obviously been very successful in growing viewership, but there is plenty of controversy surrounding it as well.

Do you think it is overall a benefit or a detriment to society?

Share why if you wish.

How Are Humans Like Other Animals? How Are They Different?

Humans are among the most successful animals on Earth. We have transitioned from a few hundred thousand hunter-gatherers to billions of people spread across the planet.

However, we recognize in other animals that share our planet many of the same traits that we ourselves have. We see the loyalty of the dog. The tool-using cleverness of the crow. The playfulness of the dolphin. We see so much of ourselves in gorillas and chimpanzees that it suggested we have a common ancestor.

And yet, we seem quite different from any other animal. We have a manual dexterity that is uncommon. Our language is more highly developed than most. We learn about and manipulate our environment in ways that have transformed our lives completely.

There are many ways we can look at the animal kingdom, and draw comparisons or contrasts. Which ones do you find most compelling? Are we more like our animal cousins than we want to believe? Or are we somehow unique, for better or worse?

How are humans like other animals? How are they different?

Related questions: What do we have in common? How have we changed? Is it a cruel world?

How Much Power Does An Individual Have?

It can be difficult to properly judge the role of an individual in our society.

On one hand, one person can feel completely powerless. With institutions like political parties or religious groups consisting of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, an individual has a limited voice. Some individuals, due to wealth or fame, can influence many people all at once, but if you are not one of those people, what recourse do you have?

Alternately, in our culture we often mythologize the lone creator. Steve Jobs was Apple, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, and Elon Musk is Tesla. We often associate an individual with large and powerful groups, even when it isn’t proper to do so.

Amazon, for example, is a huge company, filled with innovative people. Jeff Bezos didn’t design or build the Kindle. He didn’t develop or program the Amazon Web Services. He doesn’t fulfill orders, doesn’t make deals with distributors, doesn’t manage inventory. There are thousands of people employed by Amazon to do all of these tasks and more.

One of the greatest talents one person can have, however, is the ability to inspire others. One person can inspire a second to join them, and a third, and so on. That’s the ability that Steve Jobs had, and why our society revered him.

Everything that happens in our culture is done by individuals. A song becomes a hit because individuals listen to it. A book becomes a best seller because individuals each buy a copy. A movie is culturally significant because people — one person at a time — think it is.

Who really wields the power, the crowd or the people who make up the crowd? How much power does an individual have?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? Why do we feel the need to belong? How important is the artist to art? Where does authority come from?