The Thirteenth & Fourteenth Kirk Elbod Interviews:


THE INDIVIDUAL - PARTS 1 & 2






||       INTERVIEW #13: THE INDIVIDUAL, PART 1
C|  
O|  
P|       (After our trip to Washington, we had mutually 
Y|  agreed to continue our series of interviews in mid-
R|  September. So around 9 P.M., on the appointed night, I 
I|  went to Kirk's house where I had meet him so many times 
G|  before. It was pouring rain with a gusty wind and it 
H|  seemed particularly dark in the driveway. I knocked. 
T|  Hearing no reply, I opened the door and went in. From 
||  another room, I heard Kirk call "Come on in". So I 
1|  proceeded to the next door, where I was suddenly, 
9|  abruptly greeted by a blinding studio light and a video 
8|  camera pointed at me. A hand from behind the camera 
9|  reached out and shook my hand. Then I was aware that my 
||  image was simultaneously being shown on Kirk's 19" TV 
B|  screen, in short I was seeing myself repeated, and it 
Y|  made me very uncomfortable.)
||       TALBOT: What are you doing? (I protested.)      
R|       (With that, the sudden whine and roar of feedback 
I|  filled the room. Kirk quickly moved to turn down the TV. 
C|  Now quieter so as not to provoke any more feedback.) I 
H|  say, what are you doing? 
A|       (And simultaneously the "me" on the screen said 
R|  quietly the same thing. I was feeling more and more 
D|  uncomfortable with this camera pointed at me.) 
||       TALBOT: Kirk, turn that damn thing off! (I shouted.) 
d|       (And my loud voice produced feedback again.) 
e|       ELBOD: (from behind the camera) Do I get the 
G|  impression this makes you feel self-conscious?
A|       TALBOT: That's putting it mildly. (I said finally 
R|  resigning myself to the situation and sitting down.) 
I|       ELBOD: It seems to me that most teenagers in western 
S|  culture go through a stage in which they feel they are 
||  looking at themselves. As though they were separated from 
D|  their own actions, or their own body. I know that I 
O|  certainly did when I was about sixteen.
B|       TALBOT: (forgetting myself for a minute) Yes, I 
L|  think that's true. At about the same age, I remember 
E|  being very confused. Wondering if I did things just for 
||  show, or because I truly wanted to do those things. There 
A|  always seemed to be this other person in my brain who was 
L|  commenting on what I was doing. 
L|       (Then I looked at myself talking again and found 
||  that here too I was getting confused, with these, my two 
R|  selves, filling the room with their conversation.) 
I|       TALBOT: Kirk will you please shut that thing down! 
G|  (I yelled this time deliberately, to create feedback, 
H|  anything to get his attention, to turn the camera off. 
T|  With a screech and wail of louder feedback he complied. I 
S|  saw my other self fading from the screen as he switched 
||  off the camera, and then the TV. I leaned back into his 
R|  couch with a sigh of relief.) 
E|       TALBOT: I hope there was a point to all that.
S|       ELBOD: I'll let you decide. (He went to the kitchen 
E|  and returned with two cups of delicious Arabic coffee, 
R|  handing one to me. Then he settled back into his chair.) 
V|       ELBOD: The anthropologist Montague said that all 
E|  more advanced cultures felt alienated from their world; 
D|  they felt less connection to their surroundings than non-
||  literate cultures. But in the late twentieth century 
||  west, humans seem to feel particularly separated, 
C|  especially removed.
O|       There is a whole literature, almost a culture in 
P|  itself, about alienation. This period has been dubbed 
Y|  "The Age of Anxiety" which is ironic, because western 
R|  culture has achieved what it set out to achieve, namely 
I|  the ability to shape and form nature in just about any 
G|  way it wanted. But there has always been a gnawing 
H|  undercurrent of anxiety, threatening to suck us down into 
T|  its depths and from which we fear we will never return. 
||  Strange don't you think?
1|       The developed countries spend an amount on 
9|  tranquilizers equal to the combined health care budgets 
8|  of the 67 poorest nations. In modern western society 
9|  people use alcohol, drugs, sex, sports, or even social 
||  causes (whether right or left) in a frantic effort to 
B|  forget themselves. All in an effort, it seems to me, to 
Y|  dissolve a barrier of separation that has somehow been 
||  erected in our psyches.
R|       Now, there is nothing wrong with forgetting 
I|  yourself, in fact I think it is essential for an 
C|  individual's health. But it needs to be a part of one's 
H|  total life, not a frantic, pathological behavior which 
A|  distorts a person's existence.
R|       To indulge in a bit of speculation here: Could some 
D|  of this self consciousness be due to the omnipresence of 
||  the clock, as I suggested in the interview about history? 
d|  The clock is a relatively new invention, in terms of 
e|  human existence. Is the ever present ticking, this 
G|  artificial series of events which makes us intensely 
A|  conscious of time, the wedge that creates excessive 
R|  awareness? Is it the irritant that makes us frequently 
I|  self-conscious? 
S|       TALBOT: Do we really have any choice? It just seems 
||  to be one of the hard facts of modern life, that we 
D|  cannot feel as connected to our lives as we may have felt 
O|  - or was it a fantasy -, when we were primarily an 
B|  agrarian society, for example, when the sense of time was 
L|  determined by sunrise and sunset and the crowing of the 
E|  cock.
||       ELBOD: (getting up, excited, pacing the room) 
A|  Exactly my point. It may be, that for the time being at 
L|  least, we are stuck, but there might be some things we 
L|  can do about it. We may find, like the bounded and the 
||  unbounded I mentioned last time, that we have to learn to 
R|  live in a world where we are self-conscious some of the 
I|  time and not some of the time. 
G|       But to bridge the gap we need to establish 
H|  connections and a sense of belonging. A feeling that we 
T|  are part of the world. A sense of continuity. An idea of 
S|  how we fit in.
||       But first we need to recognize the problem before we 
R|  can learn how to cope with it.
E|       TALBOT: Which I'm sure, as usual, you have some 
S|  ideas about (I said with a bit of sarcasm.) 
E|       ELBOD: A few (He replied quietly, squelching my 
R|  biting tone with feigned modesty.) First what I'm really 
V|  talking about tonight is the individual, and how the 
E|  individual is going to fit into this world that I see 
D|  around the next corner, the world on the other side of 
||  this transition we seem to being going through.
||       TALBOT: Well, I'm glad you finally got that out. I 
C|  wondered where you were going.
O|       ELBOD: (giving me a slight scowl) But before I get 
P|  started, I want to discuss pronouns.
Y|       TALBOT: What?
R|       ELBOD: Specifically the pronouns "he" and "she". At 
I|  the moment we are stuck with an awkward way of talking 
G|  about an individual who might be a he or a she. When I 
H|  learned grammar, I was taught to always say "he" as a 
T|  pronoun, when the gender was uncertain.
||       But this old rule does not apply any more. I learned 
1|  to say, for example, "Each person needs to understand his 
9|  wants." Now I ought to say "his or her wants."
8|       So when I talk about the individual I may make some 
9|  grammatical errors. I am going to say things such as "a 
||  person must understand their wants." Which is incorrect, 
B|  but sounds better to my ear.
Y|       TALBOT: Sounds like a problem for the "Word Project" 
||  you suggested a while back. A a new word for a pronoun 
R|  that means he/she.
I|       ELBOD: Very perceptive, my dear Talbot.
C|       But back to the individual.
H|       The society is really a collection of individuals. 
A|  In short I consider the individual to be the indivisible 
R|  unit of human society; the atom, if you will, without 
D|  which the society could not exist.
||       Now, having said that, I want to say the opposite. 
d|  The individual, at least in the U.S., is not what he or 
e|  she is cracked up to be. 
G|       As a male in this society, for example, I found and 
A|  find that men are expected to be independent, 
R|  competitive, hard charging, tough, controlled, somewhat 
I|  aloof, and with their feelings well in hand. 
S|       TALBOT: The Lone Ranger syndrome?
||       ELBOD: Exactly. And it is a false and destructive 
D|  image because the world is not like that. Each of us is 
O|  an integral part of our own network. We are completely 
B|  immeshed with the people who make up our world. For 
L|  example, a man might be a son, a brother, a husband, a 
E|  father, a worker, and a citizen, all at the same time. 
||  Each of these roles has demands and obligations. Each 
A|  also has benefits. But he is not independent at all. He 
L|  may find himself working with a co-worker he can't stand 
L|  - what does he do then? He may have trouble relating to 
||  one of his brothers or sisters, what does he do? Usually 
R|  he cannot walk away in either case. He cannot act like 
I|  the tough Lone Ranger. He is stuck in the situation, and 
G|  has to make the best of it, which is where individual 
H|  choices and power really come in.
T|       In the program MASH, many of people did not want to 
S|  be there in Korea but they had no choice. And they were 
||  stuck with their colleagues. The real power of the 
R|  individual came in choosing how to cope with the 
E|  situation, how to relate to each other.
S|       TALBOT: Don't you think everyone realizes this. This 
E|  isn't exactly news.
R|       ELBOD: I'm not so sure. For example, we all know 
V|  that we're going to die, but few people seem to 
E|  understand death's reality. 
D|       As men at least -I can't really speak for women-, we 
||  were brought up to think of ourselves as independent 
||  entities. This notion was constantly reinforced. Of 
C|  course we were also supposed to get along with our 
O|  classmates, and obey authority and our parents, but 
P|  independence was considered to be an ideal worth striving 
Y|  for. 
R|       And with heroes like the Lone Ranger, or Matt Dillon 
I|  of Gunsmoke to pattern our behavior after, what were we 
G|  supposed to think?
H|       TALBOT: So what do you propose to do about this?
T|       ELBOD: Each man has to be realistic and realize that 
||  while we may be more independent in the U.S. than other 
1|  countries, we are still totally entwined with other 
9|  people, in our particular neck of the woods.
8|       Further, each of us has to realize our own 
9|  limitations. We really have no choice over the most basic 
||  and fundamental things in life. We must eat, sleep, work, 
B|  engage in sex. Each of us was born with demands and 
Y|  expectations almost from the beginning. In addition we 
||  were limited by opportunities available to us and the 
R|  locations we found ourselves in.
I|       Buckminster Fuller pointed out that most of our 
C|  bodily functions, necessary for life, go on without our 
H|  help as well. The blood cells circulate and wounds heal. 
A|  We may need to keep a wound from getting infected, but 
R|  the actual healing process is out of our control. We need 
D|  to feed our mouths, but the food is metabolized without 
||  our help. We grow up and we grow old whether we want to 
d|  or not.
e|       And then there's love. Finding a mate and living 
G|  with that person is probably the most important decision 
A|  each of us makes. But what choices do we have? If we 
R|  believe the popular notions, we have little control over 
I|  who we love. We "fall in love." 
S|       TALBOT: Doesn't sound like there is much left for 
||  this great individual of ours.
D|       ELBOD: Yes and no. Because having said that the 
O|  individual is less independent than we have been led to 
B|  believe, I want to talk about the control and 
L|  independence the individual actually does have.
E|       TALBOT: It figures in your system of perverse logic.
||       ELBOD: (He smiled I think.)     It is crucial that 
A|  each person understands themselves, that they have a 
L|  clear sense of what they feel, how they fit into their 
L|  own network, what their goals and desires are. In short a 
||  sense of themselves which is distinct and at the heart. A 
R|  sense, which is sure of itself, at one with itself, not a 
I|  self-conscious sense, as we talked about earlier.
G|       And it seems to me that many people are lost because 
H|  they don't have this sense. They have gotten confused or 
T|  the culture has confused them, but they do not have an 
S|  unclouded feeling of themselves at the center of their 
||  being.
R|       TALBOT: This is hard to do, at best. Are you 
E|  proposing meditation or some hippy or new-age type 
S|  solution?
E|       ELBOD: (angry) No, of course not. You know me better 
R|  than that. But I think people who are unclear need to try 
V|  some activities which may help clarify themselves to 
E|  themselves.
D|       TALBOT: Such as?
||       ELBOD: Learning how to wander, for example.
||       TALBOT: (startled) What?
C|       ELBOD: When I was a teenagers, a friend and I used 
O|  to go out and flip a coin every time we came to an 
P|  intersection, just to see where we would end up. The fun 
Y|  was the situations we found ourselves in, not the goal. 
R|  In wandering, you don't know where your going and things 
I|  can happen to you which would not have happened in a more 
G|  directed frame of mind.
H|       What I'm talking about, in a sense, is learning to 
T|  be more receptive. Letting ideas come to you instead of 
||  forcing ideas to happen. I hear numerous stories,year 
1|  after year, of high level powerful people who get their 
9|  best ideas when they are out fishing on vacation, when 
8|  they let their minds wander.
9|       This society stresses goal oriented behavior, which 
||  is okay some of the time, but not all of the time. We 
B|  also need to be passive, allowing things to happen, 
Y|  rather than always being in charge and making them 
||  happen. Flashes of insight and strong gut feelings are 
R|  things that each of us has to learn to receive, not make. 
I|  Without this we are half human, and we are cut off from 
C|  part of ourselves. This notion seems especially difficult 
H|  for males. But I believe it is healthier and also more 
A|  productive in the long run.
R|       TALBOT: Let me get this straight. You are suggesting 
D|  that people gain control by giving up control?
||       ELBOD: Exactly. The unusual point I am making is 
d|  that you gain control by giving it up, at times. You 
e|  become in touch with yourself by letting ideas and 
G|  understandings come to you.
A|       This seems like a strange notion, because we have 
R|  been taught to not trust our intuitions, to not trust 
I|  ideas that come out of the blue. We were taught, instead, 
S|  to trust mechanical, logical, sensible reason.
||       However, I believe that reason, as it was originally 
D|  defined by the Greeks, was closer to intuition. I took a 
O|  college course which showed me that. On the 
B|  recommendation of my friend Bill, I attended a philosophy 
L|  of ethics class taught by an unusual professor. 
E|       He asserted that reason, as Plato discussed it in 
||  "the Republic", was not like logic. For reason to work 
A|  properly, he said, an individual had to consider all 
L|  aspects of an ethical situation -since this was a course 
L|  on ethics- with his or her full imagination. The 
||  individual was to construct a complete imaginative world 
R|  -today we would call it a simulation- in which they 
I|  pursued various courses of action and then suffered the 
G|  consequences. When this process was complete, the proper 
H|  decision to make in the real world would emerge like a 
T|  flash of insight. 
S|       In short, the correct answer was something that came 
||  to you after you had done a good deal of imaginative 
R|  work. But it was not a mechanical process which could be 
E|  ground out by logic or by a computer.
S|       TALBOT: So what you are saying is that reason and 
E|  intuition are much closer than people have lead us to 
R|  believe.
V|       ELBOD: Yes, at least from this professor's point of 
E|  view. Modern science seems to have confirmed his idea. It 
D|  has discovered that the left side of our brain and the 
||  right side think and arrive at conclusions in very 
||  different manners. Whereas intuition used to be thought 
C|  of as a form of emotional behavior, it really seems 
O|  closer to right brained thinking. So intuition is not a 
P|  dirty word.
Y|       And with this understanding, I believe the 
R|  individual can be freed from feeling that he or she must 
I|  always actively force an answer, carve path to follow, or 
G|  forge a way to go. What the person must do actively, 
H|  instead, is go through the process of imagining. And from 
T|  that process, insights will follow.
||       (With that Kirk gathered the cups of coffee and I 
1|  realized that he was ready for me to leave. As I got up, 
9|  I suddenly remembered the way that this interview had 
8|  started, with the bright studio lights and my two selves. 
9|  How angry I was. Kirk always seemed to calm me down when 
||  I was distraught, and I must admit he had done it again. 
B|  With a wave, I was out in the driveway, wondering what 
Y|  our next interview would be like, since it was scheduled 
||  for Halloween.) 
R|       
I|        
C|  
H|       
A|       INTERVIEW #14: THE INDIVIDUAL, PART 2
R|  
D|  
||       (I had agreed to meet Kirk, in costume, around ten 
d|  o'clock, on Halloween night, at a fairly wild disco night 
e|  club overlooking a large pond. It was a partly cloudy 
G|  fall night, cool but not cold. This time I was determined 
A|  to get the upper hand. My costume was "Scoop" the old 
R|  time reporter. I wore a trench coat, a felt hat with a 
I|  press pass stuck in the hat band, and a large old press 
S|  camera with flash bulbs. And it was with this device, 
||  that I was bent on paying Kirk back, for what he had done 
D|  to me the time before.
O|       When I arrived at the disco, it was a maze of 
B|  costumed, blurred bodies on several stages. On the back 
L|  wall was a large screen TV which no one seemed to notice 
E|  except that it was part of the swirling, flashing lights. 
||  I wandered the crowd looking for Kirk. This would be 
A|  quite a trick. To recognize him in costume and then 
L|  surprise him. 
L|       At last I spied a man about his height, wearing a 
||  motorcycle helmet, a bathrobe, and a walking stick - kind 
R|  of a modern old wise man. I went up to him from behind.)
I|       TALBOT: Kirk! (I touched his shoulder.)
G|       ELBOD: Yes (And he turned to look at me. Just as he 
H|  was full face, I raised the camera and fired it, a mere 
T|  two feet away.) Argh! (I heard from underneath the 
S|  helmet.) I guess I deserved that. (He lifted up the visor 
||  and rubbed his face.) Did you just get here?
R|       TALBOT: Yes.
E|       ELBOD: Lets go outside, by the pond and see if I 
S|  can't get these spots to stop swimming in front of my 
E|  eyes. (Perhaps he just said this for my satisfaction, but 
R|  at least for once I had surprised him. He bought each of 
V|  us a beer from the outside bar, and then we settled onto 
E|  a wall overlooking the large pond surrounded by trees.)
D|       ELBOD: Halloween is a festival, thousands of years 
||  old, a harvest festival that honored the Lord of the 
||  Dead, on the Celtic first day of winter. Those who had 
C|  died during the previous year were supposed to be 
O|  wandering around on this night, looking for a live body 
P|  to invade. Our costumes were to scare any ghost we might 
Y|  happen to run into. At the end of the festival these same 
R|  costumed participants escorted the dead out of town. 
I|       Even though we have forgotten the exact original 
G|  intention, it retains much of its old flavor, that of 
H|  ghosts, skeletons, and spirits. 
T|       TALBOT: Are you still seeing ghosts in front of your 
||  eyes? (I said sympathetically, but actually needling 
1|  him.)
9|       ELBOD: Probably not as many as you'd like.
8|       TALBOT: (I decided to remain in character , playing 
9|  the role of "Scoop". I pulled out a pencil and pad. I 
||  appeared very business-like as I began to ask Kirk a 
B|  series of questions, just like a reporter on a beat.) 
Y|  I've a number of questions about this individual you have 
||  been talking about. Such as what do you consider a normal 
R|  individual to be?
I|       ELBOD: (playing along.) Lets define "normal." To me 
C|  it always meant a family, with a mother and father and 
H|  children who generally get along, a family which has the 
A|  usual problems but nothing serious.
R|       I was in group therapy for a while. At different 
D|  points, each participants said that they just wanted to 
||  be normal.
d|       So I started thinking about how many people really 
e|  were normal; certainly a majority, but I wondered how 
G|  big. I dug up some rough numbers, and decided to 
A|  eliminate any group that was not normal from the total 
R|  population of the U.S.
I|       So I eliminated people with chronic serious 
S|  illnesses, and people who were badly handicapped. I 
||  subtracted all people who were abused as well as those 
D|  who abused them, such as child sexual abuse, severe 
O|  physical and emotional abuse of children, abuse of the 
B|  elderly, spouse abuse. Of course I had to subtract all 
L|  alcoholics and drug addicts; people who were mentally 
E|  diseased. Then there were individuals with marked sexual 
||  and reproductive disorders, those who were illiterate, 
A|  homeless, or jobless. Then the retarded and those with 
L|  severe learning disorders. Children who were orphaned, 
L|  and children who had suffered a severe trauma such as the 
||  death of a parent at an early age. Then those with marked 
R|  disfigurations, or impediments or birth defects. 
I|  Individuals who had been severely discriminated against. 
G|  Veterans who were markedly affected by the war. And last 
H|  I subtracted all people convicted of a felony and victims 
T|  of major crimes. 
S|       I'm sure I left out whole categories but at least it 
||  was a start. And to be sure some people have more than 
R|  one problem, and the poor undoubtedly more than their 
E|  share. But I was only aiming for a general sense of how 
S|  many normal people there might be.
E|       And then I got to thinking. Each one of these 
R|  individuals has a spouse, or a child, or a parent, or a 
V|  sibling. As modern psychology has pointed out, an 
E|  affliction affects the entire family network. For 
D|  example, children of alcoholics have numerous problems 
||  relating to that situation. So I decided to include one 
||  person for each non-normal person in my subtraction.
C|       But I did not include mild chronic disorders, or 
O|  single parent families, or people who manage to barely 
P|  scrape a living together, or people who suffered a recent 
Y|  death in the family, or those who were moderately 
R|  handicapped, moderately discriminated against, neurotics, 
I|  or those with average phobias. (He laughed.) 
G|       TALBOT: Well, don't leave me hanging. How many 
H|  normal people were there.
T|       ELBOD: There were almost no normal people in 
||  America. A small minority. So small that to be "normal" 
1|  is very unusual, very rare. In short if you are "normal" 
9|  then you are not normal. (He laughed again.)
8|       TALBOT: How did people ever get the idea that the 
9|  rest of the society was normal except them?
||       ELBOD: Because I think each individual is isolated 
B|  in their own world, their own point of view. And due to 
Y|  this isolation they harbor the illusion that the rest of 
||  the world is normal, but they are not. Individuals would 
R|  feel less isolated, and more able to cope, if they knew 
I|  that just about everyone has a major problem. But each of 
C|  us still clings to this false notion of "normalcy" as an 
H|  ideal that we can aspire to. Yet it just isn't realistic 
A|  or helpful.
R|       TALBOT: (Flipping over the page of my pad and 
D|  licking my pencil, I continued.) After all these major 
||  problems you claim each of us has suffered, how do you 
d|  suggest an individual restore him or herself, to become 
e|  whole again?
G|       ELBOD: I'm glad you asked that.
A|       The spirits tonight remind me of Fellini's movie, 
R|  "Juliet of the Spirits". Juliet's struggle during the 
I|  movie, was to restore her sense of herself as an 
S|  individual. Juliet was a plain, small, not very 
||  noticeable person. The movie was quite surreal and 
D|  involved the mixing of time present and time past.
O|       All during the movie Juliet had talked with spirits 
B|  both good and bad, as well as had gone back in time to 
L|  revisit scenes of her childhood. At the end of the movie 
E|  Juliet was afraid because her husband had left her and 
||  threatening spirits were starting to fill her empty 
A|  house. Suddenly she had an insight. 
L|       She rushed into the past and onto the stage where 
L|  she, as a child, was involved in a play. Her child-self 
||  was tied to bed springs. Red streamers, blown by a fan, 
R|  rose up like the flames they were supposed to represent. 
I|  Her child-self was in the fires of hell and this child 
G|  was very scared. 
H|       Juliet as an adult reached to herself as a child and 
T|  untied her child-self on the bed springs. The child 
S|  rushed into Juliet's arms, as if running to her mother. 
||  And Juliet's problem with her spirits was solved and 
R|  resolved.
E|       Wordsworth said "the Child is father of the Man" and 
S|  this idea was later used by modern psychology. But 
E|  Fellini was saying the opposite. Juliet was becoming a 
R|  mother to her child. 
V|       Perhaps a person can reach into their psyche and 
E|  comfort the still scared child they carry within 
D|  themselves.
||       TALBOT: Part of Juliet's problem was her 
||  relationship with her husband, and her bad self image as 
C|  a result. How do you think a man and a woman should form 
O|  a relationship as a couple.
P|       ELBOD: Although there are different life styles, I 
Y|  believe that generally men and women are incomplete 
R|  without the other. Each has something the other needs. 
I|  And I'm not just talking about genitals. But this mutual 
G|  dependency, like any dependency, also causes anger and 
H|  resentment. This is an implicit part of the male/female 
T|  relationship, which has nothing to do with our modern 
||  concerns of equality, it's just a part of life.. Men and 
1|  women need to realize this, so that they don't direct 
9|  this anger at each other, or get confused about the its 
8|  source.
9|       But also today, we are going a period of transition 
||  in male/female relationships. The old rules no longer 
B|  apply. The new rules do not exist. So no one really knows 
Y|  what to do. It seems to me that in this period of change, 
||  both men and women need to be tolerant of each other, as 
R|  long as each is trying to be understanding of the other. 
I|  Because there are no guidelines any more, nothing like 
C|  our parents had. Maybe our children will achieve a better 
H|  sense of order than we have, but right now we are stuck, 
A|  and we will have to make it up as we go along.
R|       M.E.: It seems very hard for one person to 
D|  understand another. Perhaps this is at the root of the 
||  feeling isolated.
d|       ELBOD: Yes, all of us need to work on our sense of 
e|  "empathy", to try to see the world from another's point 
G|  of view. But as humans we seem to be lacking in this 
A|  fundamental emotion.
R|       M.E.: What do you mean?
I|       ELBOD: We seem to have a hard time understanding a 
S|  situation that someone else is in, even one we are 
||  familiar with.
D|       Drivers tend to be intolerant of pedestrians, and 
O|  yet each driver is a pedestrian during the day. 
B|  Pedestrians are intolerant of drivers, and yet most of 
L|  them are drivers also. The old have trouble understanding 
E|  the young, even though they were young once. 
||       And then it gets more difficult. Because we progress 
A|  to relationships where each of us has to imagine 
L|  another's life, since we cannot know. For example, men 
L|  have a hard time understanding what a woman's life is 
||  like, even when a man spends most of his time with his 
R|  wife, and vice-versa. Younger people are intolerant of 
I|  the old. Developed nations don't comprehend the needs of 
G|  the third world, and vice versa. So on and so forth.
H|       I don't know the answer to this, but it seems to me 
T|  that we are lacking something basic. It may be an emotion 
S|  that the culture has to learn to instill in us.
||       M.E.: Are there specific things that individuals can 
R|  do to expand their "mind-view" as you called it, things 
E|  to give them a better perspective?
S|       ELBOD: I think people should go on media fasts, as a 
E|  my friend, Jenny, used to say.
R|       TALBOT: What?
V|       ELBOD: Not watch TV for a week, and not read 
E|  magazines, not listen to radio as background, avoid 
D|  advertising as much as possible and so on, but just for a 
||  week. Get away from this bombardment of media we all take 
||  for granted, and see if that doesn't give some insight.
C|       Also I think people should on occasion have what I 
O|  call "unrefined experiences". Get away from the right 
P|  angles and major chords of civilized existence and spend 
Y|  time in a place not created by human hands. I.e. not 
R|  theme parks, plays, or cookouts but maybe floating down a 
I|  quiet river; not a man made reservoir mind you, but a 
G|  river. It's important to do these things, once in a 
H|  while, to change perspective, because such a change is 
T|  one of the principal ways a person can alter his or her 
||  point of view or mood, to see the world in a new way. As 
1|  I pointed out in the interview on science, a change in 
9|  perspective was often crucial for a new insight. 
8|  Otherwise we get stuck in doing the same old thing, which 
9|  is fine but not 100% of the time. 
||       I'm not advocating discontent with life. Or escaping 
B|  to live in the woods, but rather creating a new habit 
Y|  which becomes part of your life. That habit is doing new 
||  and unpredictable things to see the world a bit 
R|  differently, some of the time. In our busy world we might 
I|  schedule a time to be unpredictable. (He laughed.)
C|       (Just then the dance music stopped inside and the 
H|  costumed revellers poured out. Many had propped their 
A|  masks up on their heads and most were sweating profusely 
R|  from the dancing. They filled the area in front of us, 
D|  next to the pond, as I continued my questions.)
||       TALBOT: What about learning? Surely this must be 
d|  important, to learn new things.
e|       ELBOD: Well, everyone in America is very busy, too 
G|  busy. I don't want to suggest an activity that makes 
A|  people even busier or makes them feel guilty because they 
R|  never get around to it. I would ideally like to suggest 
I|  things which can be integrated into a person's life, made 
S|  part of the fabric of their day, as my friend Dave used 
||  to say, or the fabric of their week. Going on a media 
D|  fast doesn't take you any time, in fact it gives you 
O|  time, to do other things. 
B|       But people would benefit from learning, if, and only 
L|  if they have the time and are so inclined.
E|       TALBOT: Such as?
||       ELBOD: First people need to learn how to learn.
A|       TALBOT: You are proposing that people not learn a 
L|  subject, but instead learn about learning?
L|       ELBOD: Exactly.
||       TALBOT: Is this related to your idea of tools to 
R|  make the tools we discussed when talking about 
I|  technology?
G|       ELBOD: Yes. 
H|       Most people think they understand the learning 
T|  process. After all we've all been subjected to umteen 
S|  years of school, training at work and so on. The major 
||  part of our early years was taken up with learning. But 
R|  this may be the problem. We may have gotten out of the 
E|  habit of learning. 
S|       But also many people were traumatized by learning. 
E|  Many feel that they cannot learn a certain subject 
R|  because they had trouble with it in their school years. A 
V|  number have developed a learning block which is kept them 
E|  from expanding their knowledge and skills. They have been 
D|  trapped by their understanding of learning.
||       But I was a teacher of photography for many years. I 
||  taught people of all ages, levels of education, and 
C|  different backgrounds. I devised a method for teaching 
O|  which was quite different from the ways that I had been 
P|  taught. I found that the best method for learning was to 
Y|  "walk 360 degrees around the subject" as I called it, 
R|  i.e. say the same thing over and over but from a 
I|  different angle, a different perspective. There were very 
G|  few individuals who could not learn using this method. 
H|       For example, in a technical matter such as lens 
T|  f/stops I would describe it verbally, then draw pictures 
||  of each f/stop on the board, then have each student work 
1|  their own camera to see how f/stops worked, and I would 
9|  also encourage them to share and discuss what they were 
8|  doing with the person sitting next to them. Then I gave 
9|  them a picture-taking exercise in which they changed only 
||  f/stops. Even students with techno-phobias were able to 
B|  learn. Also important to my method was the principle that 
Y|  there was no such thing a a stupid question.
||       In short I feel that the best method for learning is 
R|  to hear about it, touch it, visit it, observe it, imagine 
I|  it, feel it, ask questions about it, watch a TV program 
C|  on it, read a magazine about it, get a couple of books 
H|  from the library, talk with people in the field, sit in 
A|  on a class on it, see a demonstration, get a children's 
R|  book on the subject, and anything else you can think of. 
D|  Do all these things and more, before limiting oneself in 
||  the approach of a subject. And the more varied the 
d|  approach, as long as it's not confusing, the better. This 
e|  method gives a better "feel" for the subject matter, that 
G|  allusive and all important element in learning, which 
A|  connects one to the subject being learned, instead of 
R|  keeping one separate and watching from the outside.
I|       The point is to be creative about learning, to try 
S|  new approaches. For example, I was a terrible French 
||  student. I almost flunked. When I found myself in Paris 
D|  one summer, with my rotten French, I decided to take the 
O|  bull by the horns. I bought trashy French romantic comic 
B|  books. I figured that the language in these comic books 
L|  would be current, simple, and also have a smattering of 
E|  slang which I definitely needed to know if I was going to 
||  understand anyone. And by the end of six weeks I was 
A|  almost fluent. 
L|       Now another thing about learning is that once you 
L|  have decided to learn something that you really want and 
||  are committed to it, then go all the way. Learn it until 
R|  it is second nature, learn it by heart. And if you do 
I|  this you will never loose it. It's like riding a bicycle, 
G|  you never forget. But you must learn to the point where 
H|  you don't have to think about it anymore, where it has 
T|  carved pathways into your brain, as some scientists are 
S|  now suggesting. Then and only then will you be able to 
||  leave the subject for years and come back to it. 
R|       Another important matter in learning is memory. In 
E|  literate societies we have forgotten how to make good use 
S|  of our memories, since we can refer to the written word. 
E|  But the medieval mind had a very sophisticated way of 
R|  memorizing which was based on the imaginative 
V|  construction of a memory theater in one's mind. This 
E|  memory theater had large hallways, divisions between 
D|  sections and so on. When you wanted to memorize 
||  something, you merely pasted a picture that you had 
||  devised on an appropriate wall. Now I have tried this 
C|  method recently and I find it works very well. Although I 
O|  don't have time to go into detail right now, you could 
P|  look it up.
Y|       And this brings us to the subject of knowledge. I 
R|  have a saying which is "the more you know the more you 
I|  know"
G|       TALBOT: Sounds circular.
H|       ELBOD: What I mean is the more you know, the more 
T|  you can make connections with other subjects, the more 
||  building blocks, and metaphors you have available to you.
1|       But equally important in life and learning is 
9|  knowing what you don't know. When a person doesn't know 
8|  something they need to first realize they don't, admit 
9|  their ignorance, and then ask questions. This notion is 
||  very basic, but it is amazing how we can fool ourselves 
B|  into thinking we know more than we do.
Y|       And my last point is about the forms of knowledge 
||  itself. There is data such as raw numbers, then 
R|  information which is structured data, then knowledge 
I|  which is an understanding of the information, next there 
C|  is "broad understanding" which places this new knowledge 
H|  in relation to other things known about this subject, and 
A|  lastly there is wisdom which is a broad and deep 
R|  understanding of the subject. In this culture we often 
D|  confuse these levels.
||       TALBOT: So you haven't answered the basic question 
d|  we began with. Is there any hope for our individual?
e|       ELBOD: I'll give you a three part answer.
G|       First each person has a tremendous control over 
A|  their life at certain pivotal points, such as the 
R|  decision to follow one career over another, marry or stay 
I|  single, etc.
S|       After making these decisions, your main power may be 
||  in your attitude to your life, how you cope with the 
D|  situations you find yourself in. 
O|       And lastly, if a person feels powerless, stuck, they 
B|  need to do something. Change their perspective, get 
L|  professional help, learn new ways of coping.
E|       A person can always do something. The ability to 
||  affect one's life, the gained sense of power, can make 
A|  all the difference.
L|       (With that Kirk fell silent. This crowd seemed 
L|  relaxed, enjoying themselves. They were out with their 
||  alter egos for the evening. I wondered if these costumes 
R|  and pretense helped heal, for a time, this division in 
I|  the self which Kirk had mentioned. As I watched them 
G|  move, seemingly forgetful of themselves for the night, I 
H|  decided that it had.) 
T|  
S|  




Return to Home Page

Return to Menu Page for Kirk Elbod Interviews


© Copyright 1997 by Richard deGaris Doble
All rights reserved.
If you would like to publish or reprint any part of this work, send me
an e-mail message
with particulars (make the subject Writings)
E-mail= savvynews@bmd.clis.com