Staying in Touch, Then and Now





We think nothing today of conversing virtually instantaneously with friends or business contacts on the other side of the globe. A variety of media--the Worldwide Web, ordinary telephone or cell phones, faxes and e-mail are close at hand to zip forth our messages--via satellites and landlines. It's close to being face-to-face.

But other communications take place all the time in many forms in the world of mankind and animals, too. Whales and porpoises emit high-pitched squeals and squeaks, dogs bark and cats meow. Birds have their chirps and whistles. Even insects, like tiny ants, have some kind of innate ability to transmit signals to each other to unite and attack enemies, carry and store food and dig tunnels.

Ancient man grunted and howled in anger and pain, not unlike we do today. Babies, without the ability to utter one intelligible sound, can tell us a lot. From their cries, we learn whether they are hungry or thirsty, have a stomach ache or need a diaper change--or are just plain cantankerous.

Man has been communicating since eons ago when it was accomplished in primitive fashion, maybe hammering an animal bone on a skin stretched across a section of tree trunk or cooking pot. Tribal people in India and Africa still beat away on drums that vary little from ancient times, as do American Indians, with special rhythms marking celebrations of weddings, festivals and other events.

On the North American continent, Indians sent smoke signals to colleagues miles away. Historical phenomena on display in the caves of Ajanta in India and the hieroglyphics of Egypt reflect man's effort to preserve his art, architecture, language and history for posterity. Aborigines in what is now America fashioned pictographs etched into stone and still preserved in various states, including Hawaii.

On a personal level, each normal person has an amazing set of sensory tools to communicate through the intricacies of computer-like complexes--those little gray cells of the brain--which constantly register a variety of impulses. God gave us sight, smell, speech, hearing, and touching sensitivity and some innate faculties that we do not fully comprehend.

Humans can communicate on a surprisingly high level, even when one or more of these natural senses is stunted. The famous American Helen Keller could not see, hear or speak. Yet this highly intelligent woman learned how to make herself understood and exchange views through touching and feeling to relay silent messages on an arm or hand. She later used Braille to read but it was a sort of a Morse code through touch that led to her literacy and the opening of a magnificent mind.

In the contemporary era, electronic and other sorts of communications became available for pursuit of war, peacetime commerce, human interface and radio and television broadcasting.

On the high seas, crews of maritime and naval vessels employ devices like powerful lights flashing code or danger warnings, signal flags of various colors and sounding instruments to measure the depth of water.

Sonar equipment emits pulses for underwater detection and radar equipment identifies the "blips" of aircraft and ships at sea for combat or safety purposes.

More sophisticated generations of technology, satellites and spacecraft, have come along in close succession to transmit electronic beams at the speed of light. These advances have enabled telecommunications and astronomical links via land, air and sea, sometimes involving distances of hundreds of millions of miles from earth.

In the "Information Age," we increasingly bank on computer systems and cyberspace to learn and remain closely tuned to each other.

Moreover, the research and development of these intricate electronic cobwebs have funneled enormous funds into economies internationally to provide convenience, medical miracles and jobs for millions of families.

However, such elaborate systems are not always needed for communication at the personal level. We are equipped to send signals through our tone of voice and our eyes and expressions indicating irritation, impatience, joy, pain, anger, sadness, high or low energy, youth or old age.

Through our "Body English" one can clearly read signs in other's actions pointing to tension, excitement, peace; whether you are getting through with points you are trying to make or are being tuned out.

We communicate our personality, too, through our environmental choices, according to some experts. Those familiar with salesmanship techniques say an individual's personality by can be measured by clothing, home and office furnishings and mannerisms to adjust a sales presentation accordingly to improve chances of obtaining the order.

In short, we are communicating all the time, frequently on an automatic, reflexive basis. And these reactions and personality characteristics serve as either building blocks or detriments to our interpersonal relationships and careers.

It's clear that among humans, messages are dispatched silently all the time, and not merely the "come-hither" glance of a beautiful woman or handsome male to draw the attention of the opposite sex. We respond positively to a smiling face or admirable persona. We are attracted and enjoy being in the company of people gifted with happy, bouncy natures for we pick up positive vibrations. On the contrary, a person who habitually has a foreboding expression, is difficult to be around.

Clearly it's important to "put on a happy face." Cheerful companions and stressing the positive side of life also tend to promote a healthy mind, body and attitude.

As to other means of communication, one of the most popular of course is the written word in multiple modes, such as business and government letters and releases, law journals, literature, poetry and the press.

Television and radio come into play in the sense that though it is our ears, or eyes, being buffeted it is often someone speaking words originating from the written page, whether news copy, actors in plays or commercials.

Unfortunately, according to research, reading has slipped in popularity in the United States due to television obsession.

However, it is the rare person who doesn't indulge in reading copy in some form, especially when we can skim through newspapers, magazines and books easily accessible on the Internet. As a result, we are broadened and entertained in a positive sense, assuming we are exposed to writing and reporting of merit.

Conversely, as we know from history the powerful arms of the media in the hands of political tyrants also spread messages encouraging violence, war, misinformation, hate and misery in general. Dictators and military juntas continue to undermine democracy through manipulative propaganda, spurning facts and objectivity.

In our American republic, political leaders also try to use the media to put the latest "spin" on policies to curry the favor of the electorate. Fortunately, unlike the totalitarian governance in nations under the heel of despots, the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the individual and the press to engage in debate, publicize dissent and seek solutions through the ballot box.

Another genre of writing is poetry, an art expresses sentiments in a variety of unique ways to create graphic pages of beauty and power, with which readers can identify and become emotionally involved.

For successful and aspiring poets, and those who immerse themselves in verse for reading pleasure, we unite in a brother/sister-hood.

Ranging from sonnets and haiku to epic poems that chronicle stories of history, we participate in the gamut of human experiences and emotions. They encompass the marvel of nature around us; human inter-action, like sexuality and the aspects of love between man and woman; the devotion and affection of mothers and fathers for children and other family members; courage in the tragedy of war; failure, disappointment and more.

Poetry, in its best forms, magically blends everyday events into an interplay of human and natural drama and language, more likely than not emphasized by musical rhymes and cadences.

The lines and rhythm, dramatized by metaphor and simile and other tools of the art lend a luster to the ordinary that removes the scales from our eyes. The nitty-gritty pulses of life are transformed into sublime settings that probe emotional depths and add greater understanding and awe of the magnificence of our lives and universe.

Some writers who specialize in prose can similarly transport us with novels, short stories and essays; witness the fund of classics we can draw upon in our libraries and from our own bookshelves.

And the songwriter is a poet with an extra dimension, whether popular, show tunes, operatic or other style. For example, some of our best-known singers, such as Beatle Paul McCartney and Jewel have published books of verse.

Gospel music is another form or songwriting that has proliferated. Gifted young people originate their own lyrics, or take the age-old Psalms of David and perform music that rewards the faithful with moving worship.

Beyond its spiritual value, the Bible is a splendid literary source, for some of the finest poetry and lyrics are found in the living word of God that has power to transform lives.

It is worth considering how few of us reading this page, privileged to have reading and writing skills, seldom consider the plight of millions of people who are deprived due to illiteracy. Through no fault of their own, they are victims, shackled in the mire of ignorance.

Consequently, they--and chances are the generations they spawn--are denied avenues to education, knowledge and a greatly improved lifestyle.

One of the fallacies encountered is that illiteracy is immaterial since the people affected don't know what they are missing.

It is obvious, however, that literacy is the major link to learning and comprehension of other societies, cultures and countries, as well as a lifetime of entertainment and enjoyment. Furthermore, the acquisition of literacy is the key that unlocks the door to learning. Stepping through that doorway can lead to an improved standard of living for millions of families through upgraded job skills and brighter prospects for employment.

As British novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley wrote, "Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting."