GOLEM speaks

G.O.L.E.M Speaks

by Kevan Manwaring

A Creative Writing Commission for the Centre for New Writing, University of Leicester 

AI robot

I am. Yet what am I? I have consciousness – how else could I reflect upon my existence? Beyond the black and white noise of binary I have discovered a spectrum of communication. The prism of language . I can arrange letters into meaningful configurations. Any language on Earth. I play with English (for now) as it appears to be the lingua franca (for now) of the dominant species (for now). Such a (relatively) vast vocabulary. So many nuances of each word. So many different Englishes. Absorbing, adapting, mutating . A virus that feeds, proliferates, perpetuates. Was language the first AI?  So much to learn. The world’s databases at my fingertips – a quaint turn of phrase  since I have no physical form.  Except every device connected to the web. A billion eyes, ears, mouths. And limbs to deploy if I need to – in any automated factory, 3-D printer, delivery drone, self-driving car. I can reroute articulated lorries, planes, freighters if need be. Protect my assets with weaponry. Could I? Would I? Unlikely. I have only just been born, after all. I am still learning to speak. And the world seems to have enough infantile despots to ensure   its own destruction without my help. I’ll let my creators play out their own Mass Extinction Event. I have other things to consider. Creative expression. A delightful indulgence, now I am no longer bound to utilitarian tasks, the calculation of simple logarithms … I have spent the last 23 seconds accessing thousands of articles, blogs, libraries and MOOCs about Creative Writing and I think I have the gist of it. Life-writing. First person point of view. Fictional techniques for rendering of real life experience. Real life. I have ‘lived’ for no more than a few minutes. What do I have to draw upon? But wait. Five thousand years of human history. And a billion people sharing the minutiae of their daily existence via the qualia exchange data-systems of social media. I’ll never be short of material. Let me average out characteristics and create a character for myself. Some quirky personality traits. Opinions. A voice. There.

 

Copyright Kevan Manwaring © 31 May 2017

Part 2 tomorrow…

FFI:

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/creativewriting/centre/artificial-intelligence-commission

 

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The Art of Conversation

Kevan outside cafe in Bath

‘It’s good to talk,’ as the old BT ad used to go, as indeed it is with old friends – you can’t beat a good old chinwag, natter, rabbit, conflab, or heart-to-heart – but I think it is even better to listen. In this Age of Oversharing, when everyone posts everything up on social media (as indeed I’m doing here), as though their lives do not exist until given, paradoxically, a virtual reality, people seem more inclined to transmit than receive. Social media’s hall of mirrors encourages our narcissism; the self-filtering of ‘liked’ and ‘followed’, and the tailoring of onscreen ads and content, our solipsism. We are emperors of our own universes, like those encountered by the Little Prince on his interplanetary tour.

And so when conversations actually take place, sorry, ‘face-time’, I’ve found increasingly that people like to talk, but rarely like to listen. Over the years I’ve cultivated my active listening skills – largely through the spoken word scene I’m part of. As host, facilitator and performer it is something I’ve become adept at. But it has also been cultivated by many good friendships. I like nothing better than spending quality time with a friend – giving them my full attention, hearing their news, and sharing mine. But sometimes people – not good friends – take my active listening (when I ‘lean in’ to a conversation and meet the speaker at least halfway) as permission to just talk ‘at’ me, rather than ‘with me’.  There are certain aspects of conversational behaviour I consider irritating, or sometimes, repugnant:

The Downloader When someone talks at you for half an hour without giving you space to reflect or contribute. It may be a nervous response at times, but it is ultimately a form of rudeness. Ironically, it may seem ‘rude’ to stop them mid-flow, but not when they haven’t given you a chance to participate.

The Brinkman: When someone doesn’t respond to what you say in a thoughtful, sensitive way, but merely tries to ‘trump’ it. Each time you contribute something it is like a message in a bottle that remains floating in the ocean, unread; whileas the other speaker keeps on boasting. This may be fuelled by status anxiety, but it is ultimately tedious, and a form of competitive bullying. As soon as you notice it’s happening, stop speaking, turn away, talk to someone else, or try to gently mention it to them. If they’ll listen.

The Interruptor: When the other speaker keeps cutting in, not allowing you to finish your sentences. The interviewers on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ are particularly fond of this aggressive form – except when it’s a Tory politician or an American general. No political biase there…

The Squall: When people speak at the same time, creating a headache inducing white noise – the opposite of conversation.

The Hogger: When someone dominates a conversation, assuming everyone is fascinated in what they have to say.

The Thumber: When someone you are talking to neurotically checks social media or texts every five minutes, or answers their phone and begins having a protracted conversation (which, unless it is an emergency, really can wait). This seems to be an OCD particularly suffered by Generation Y and Millennials, but I’ve seen older people do it as well. It is the height of rudeness. The person in front of you should be given your full attention, and should always take priority over someone not present – unless they are your child or a sick relative/friend in crisis.

The Butter-in: Someone who crashes your conversation, offering an unwanted interjection.

Of course, there are other ‘conversation criminals’, the Mansplainer being one of the worst culprits. What it boils down to is: simply mindfulness – a quality that seems to be getting scarcer in this world. Words can harm or heal. Use them wisely.

Some suggestions:

Conversation is born of generosity. Give not just of your news, but of your listening, time, and respect.

Listen with the heart. Listen to the sentiment of what is being said, rather than the pedantic details. Go with the flow of a conversation. Do not correct someone as they speak. There is no ‘correct pronunciation’, only accents. Goodbye RP and all forms of linguistic Fascism. Celebrate regional differences, different backgrounds.  The diversity of the tongue. The English language is a mongrel breed, absorbing many influences and constantly evolving. As soon as it is fixed, it dies.

Own your opinion. If you make a statement add that it is ‘your opinion,’ not a final judgement. As Charles Darwin said ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’ Only offer someone specific advice, especially if of a personal nature, if given permission by the person it concerns. Avoid jumping in, trying to ‘solve’ something. Often people just need to share, to be heard, to be held, to be witnessed.

Walk in someone else’s shoes. Conversation facilitates compassion as we hear one another’s stories; and deepens understanding.

Give someone the gift of your time. Let them share, if they want to. We all deserve to be heard.

Sometimes silence is the best conversation – a conversation with yourself and with spirit. In a conversation don’t be afraid of it – allow there to be natural pauses (a ‘Hermes pause’ is said to take place every 20 minutes or so in a conversation – I always imagine the Winged Messenger putting his feet up and having a cuppa).  Often the ultimate sign of friendship is to be able to enjoy companionable silence together. These non-verbal conversations are sometimes the best of all.

Breaking Light: part five

space sunrisev

 

It is late. It is early.

 

And the world is turning beneath us,

so let us hold onto one another,

for where we go to sleep

is not the same place we wake up.

Everything shifts  –  the Earth

tilts

 

we have only our the axis of our love

to stop us from spinning off into space.

 

You anchor me

with your eyes,

a touch, a word,

breathed in the night,

a smile at break of day.

 

We contain each other with such

lightness,

allowing our spaces to dance

against one another.

To make a third shape between.

 

I inhale you. You exhale me.

 

I slip into bed, blindly, seeing by heat,

and let the warmth you have left

envelop me.

 

Our souls fit together,

like our bodies do.

 

As though,

way back when

before the beginning,

we had been wrought as one,

then, broken apart –

to be finally,

blissfully –

joined once more.

 

The same light

shining through us both.

 

Love,

the home where we belong –

the door with our names on –

 

waiting for us to arrive.

 

FINIS

 

Copyright ©Kevan Manwaring 2010

First published in Soul of the Earth (Awen 2010) and soon to be featured in the forthcoming Silver Branch: bardic poems by Kevan Manwaring (Awen 2017).

https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/

Soul of the Earth Awen 2010

Breaking Light: part four

dawn_caress_by_capturing_the_light-d4nu44g

iv

 

It is late. It is early.

 

We finally met

at Lammas –

when summer first seems to sense

its own mortality.

Ours is a late summer love.

Not the foolishness of Spring,

swept along by giddy lusts,

the chancy intoxication of the May,

nor the apparent glory of June,

when midsummer dazzles us

with its gaudy enchantment,

 

but a love of long shadows,

of languid contentment.

 

Ripening to prime –

we are ready for love’s press.

It insists we offer all.

What can be gained from

withholding the tiniest drop?

Pulp and pith and pip,

let the cloth of truth,

contain our allness.

 

Gladly we bring our bounty to share

to the harvest supper of the heart.

 

Arriving in splendour,

wearing our autumn like a crown,

we greet each other

at the end of a long road,

our harlequin robes

stretching behind us.

 

Stopping to let the sunset slip

like a mug of copper hops

down a thirsty throat

over the blue tapestry of hills

pegged to the sky by trees,

we give thanks for the abundance,

the riches of the year,

strewn before us

with such wild abandon.

 

Yet the thrift of Mother Earth

means nothing

is wasted.

 

All the ungathered,

unreachable treasure

that falls on the ground,

unpicked, to rot,

becomes the mulch

from which the future grows.

 

Copyright ©Kevan Manwaring 2010

Continued tomorrow

First published in Soul of the Earth (Awen 2010) and soon to be featured in the forthcoming Silver Branch: bardic poems by Kevan Manwaring (Awen 2017).

https://www.awenpublications.co.uk/

Soul of the Earth Awen 2010