The un-toast – or how “the social stomach” can save humanity

elleria sand not toasting to tommen
game of thrones, dorne, jamie lannister, kingslayer, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau,
Cheers. Or what?!

Doran brings out a toast for Tommen, to which Ellaria gloomily reacts by emptying her glass on the floor, sending a defying look to Jamie Lannister, creating in the teenage lovers, Myrcella and Trystane, one of these wtf-moments about the adults being SO embarrassing.

The non-verbal element is of course very strong here, very brutal, very simple, and completely on the symbolic level. Drinking together means: we are in on this together. Refusing to drink is a very strong protest reaction.

I can’t help thinking about the role that consumption plays in our society, in Denmark particularly, it is very strong, at least. Not wanting to share a meal means you can really piss off the host. This is of course particularly accentuated when the reason for not eating or drinking is based on religious, cultural, health related, ethical or political reasons.

This is why I suggest we invent “the social stomach”. This is an implant in the body that includes

  • a valve in the throat, controlled by our thoughts (or to begin with, an iPhone with the new app “iSwallow”)
  • a plastic tube, parallel to our gullet
  • a plastic bag, next to our stomach, and finally
  • a second valve, in a hidden place, accessible while at the toilet

This way, we wouldn’t have to create these awkward situations, when with the family, where we’d have to remind them for the hundredth time that we don’t eat this or that. We can simply swallow it, and with a big fat smile on our face let the bad, unhealthy, unethical stuff pass through the body without and side effects. Then at an appropriate moment  simply going to the bathroom and flush it out. Completely acceptable and legitimate behavior. Or better: find an excuse to get a lonely moment in the kitchen, find a clean tupperware container, drop the completely untouched food there, and place it safely in the fridge. Now that is recycling!!

A positive side effect from the social stomach implant – aside from the extremely beneficial effect on the social balance in our society – is of course that we can do our duty as citizens and consume more and more, without having any impact on the health system. What with our innate digestive system, we can simply use our for what it’s there for: nutrition.

Non-verbal communication, – a world of valuable information

At Christmas I was with my kids for a four day trip to Berlin. I gave my thirteen year old son a basketball, and while the kids were sleeping the whole morning of the 25th, I went exploring the unfamiliar neighborhood. Back home, the kids were up, and we all wanted to play some basketball. I explained to my son that I had seen two places where we could play.

– “There’s one place here”, I said pointing to the north, “and another place here”, I said pointing to the south. “Which one do you prefer?” These were the words I used.
– “I prefer that one”, he said, pointing to the North.
– “Why?”
“Because it’s closest”
“How did you know that?”
I actually hadn’t said anything that would indicate the distance to the two places.
– “Because of the way you said it”, my son finished. Off we went to the nearest basketball court.

What’s interesting here is that not only didn’t I use any words that would indicate distance, I actually didn’t have any intention of communicating anything about it. What more is: I hadn’t even come to any conscious conclusion in my mind about it, only realising the fact about the proximity of one of the places the moment my son expressed it in words.

I think it is possible to draw three conclusions from this little story:

  1. our non-verbal communication is a source for precise information about spatial relations between physical places, people and objects. Our bodily and vocal gestures are adding valuable gradient information to the conversation, where words – in their binarity – fall short
  2. we are carrying a lot of information in our bodies from daily experiences, – like an imprint in flesh and bones – but we are not necessarily conscious about how and when we are conveying the information.
  3. of the vast amount of non-verbal knowledge we are bringing in to the interaction, only a small portion will surface, and only when someone has an interest in that specific information. It seems that the idea of wasting too much energy walking towards a basketball court is more important to a teenager than to his 43 year old father

Also read How can sound help us building our collectives?