The Challenge & Possibilities of the New Way of Aging
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Intercultural Communication and Design

The Workshops

About Manfred E. Keune, Ph.D
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Intercultural Communication and Design

The Workshops

The three workshops listed below are all designed to help us use language more powerfully and more effectively. We will begin to see how we can restructure communication practices with which we create our world and our relationships with others and ourselves. Reading and discussing prose texts, poetry and papers to investigate key concepts support our learning process.

I. The Challenges and Possibilities of the New Way of Aging

It has become clear to many that, in our time, the journey of life does not stop at age 65. This is an insight that has changed the way we look at the new process of aging. The evidence for this is obvious in the way we now live before and after we turn 65. We have different expectations and concerns in maturity than the generations before us. We know that we do not only live longer, but we also want to do so with a life of quality. In expectation of a longer and active life, we are beginning to learn and develop practices that make a better life a reality. Quality of life is a highly subjective idea throughout our life, but it is even more so in maturity when we reflect on our past, the growing physical limitations and our chronologically challenged future. Nevertheless, we can cross this threshold with the intention of creating a new and different intellectual and spiritual journey. We can do this because this social shift is not only a biological process, but a whole set of interlocking issues that characterize the new way of aging. We observe that the reality of death and disease can make us feel useless and lonely at times, but we also know that much can be done to meliorate these concerns in order to uphold our dignity with humor and wisdom.

What can we do when resignation is no longer an option? First of all, we need to realize that we have choices. Of course, we can fill our days with leisure activities as if we were on an everlasting vacation, or we can attend to time-consuming chores that have to be attended to around the clock. But when all of this activity no longer is meaningful and satisfying, we can make an honest attempt toward designing a more balanced way of maturing. We can begin by facing the problems and issues through discussion and reflection.

The Challenge

  • How do we go from a common understanding of aging to a more profound concept of the new threshold of aging?
  • How do we come to terms with the life we have led so far, and how do we proceed?
  • What does the process of self-realization mean at this stage of our lives as we will face new concerns and roles?
  • How do we summon the courage to face the great unknown toward the final stages
    of our lives?

The Response

  • Looking at the uncertainties, dissatisfactions and fears that haunt us.
  • Considering our history: how do we deal with memory and establish wisdom for our future?
  • Discovering what it means to be human at this time in our lives. Digesting the accelerating changes that surround us.
  • Designing a good life for ourselves on an individual and communal level.

II. Human Communication: Speaking and Listening

How can we learn to use the power of language to become more confident in the ways we communicate in the different stages of our lives? This is a central question we often ask ourselves in our workplaces or in our every day life. ICD offers an inquiry into the fundamental structures of human communication: how we use language and what possibilities for becoming better communicators are available for us. We will address critical issues underlying typical communication breakdowns and what we can do to establish trust with others and promote coordination and cooperation.

As human beings, we are linguistic creatures and have always created the world around us by navigating the currents of our lives with language. In our current historical situation, we are a witness to a revolution in information and communication which has changed the way we process information with ever increasing speed. Although this has brought about many positive aspects, it has also introduced questions of control and ethics. In many ways, we have become a culture of distrust where the overwhelming possibilities of information technology outpace our capacity for connecting emotionally to the speed of the message. The resulting uncertainty is beginning to show up in our speaking and listening and even affects our values and virtues. On top of this, two cultures have emerged, the older less proficient and the young and very proficient communicators of the age of communication technology. But cyberspace is not only technology; it is also the social space all of us share in this world. The way we can combat this potentially divisive situation is by looking at the fundamental structures of our language and our attitudes and language habits with rigor, honesty and humor. Recognizing the linguistic and cultural foundations of our language habits in our work together will give us more competence in sharing and coordinating our lives with others.

III. Revealing the Power of Language: Poetry

Although we work with poetry as guiding texts and tools in our reading practices, a focused discussion of what poetry is and what it can do for us is important. Poetry may speak to all of us in different ways, but the essential quality of poetry reveals clarity and a compelling thrust to overcome our fears. And it does this on a level which we usually do not allow ourselves to access. It bares to us the fibers of life, rich with metaphors and imagination, that penetrate the surface of our understanding of the world through language. Poetry allows the illumination of every imaginable aspect of life in order to search for the holistic truth of humanness and nature.

Above all poetry is an invitation to participate in the creative process which gave it birth. We all can be poets, even if we do not reach a level of quality we characteristically associate with such people as T.S.Eliot or Goethe. The essential thing is the writing process as an attempt to clarify some complex situation or problem. The language of good poetry is focused and to the point. It can lead us on a journey of revelations that speak to us in a way that is effective, emotional and beautiful at the same time. It takes practice and skill to read and write poetry, but we can all attempt with various degrees of expertise to find poetic expressions for that which is locked deep inside of us.

The promise of this workshop is to experience new levels of satisfaction and insight through the language of poetry. We discuss a range of works by masters of this genre in order to understand the nature and the impact poetry can have in our lives. I invite you to speak from the heart, the mind and the soul in the intimate circle of the workshop community with your own poetry.

A Word about Learning in Workshops

The workshop is fundamentally an arena for the experience of learning. The distinction from the lecture format is that the workshop offers the possibility for learning by interactive creativity triggered by the participants. Learning is the modification of the capacity of our body, soul and mind to act in the world and manage change. It is the commitment of the workshop leader to facilitate this process by guiding the discussion and coaching participants to more clarity and understanding. The following points are essential for this model:

  • Reading of various texts which help to focus our thoughts on the discussion points and guide our thinking.
  • These various texts are poems, excerpts from books and papers, written by the workshop leader to illuminate the background of our thinking and actions.
  • Discussions are interactive i.e., all members of organizations, businesses and groups participate as they are willing and able to do so. Part of the participation is the valuable practice of sharing experiences from our lives which help us to understand the common ground we walk on.
  • In our work together, we create trust and intimacy as a necessary mode of operation. There is an absolute promise of confidentiality within the group of participants and by the workshop leader.
  • Care will be taken to do our work together in comfort as it is appropriate and desired by everybody.
  • It is the intention of the workshop leader to operate on the basis of good will, even in situations of confrontation. Mutual respect, humor and kindness should determine the prevailing mood in the workshop.

 

 

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