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Outlook on 2007: Evelyn Rodriguez

Today's Outlook on 2007 comes from a very talented young woman who blogs at Crossroads Dispatches, a blog about - life, and people, and the human condition. Evelyn transcends thinking in the here and now and delves into those secret places of our hearts and minds, where we postulate on the meaning of life. Here's a tiny example of her work. Guaranteed to create a universe of possibility for you.

Yvonne: What happened at your company, in 2006, that surprised you?Evelyn_rodriguez

Evelyn: I guess I pretty much outlined the answer to that question in this recent post on my blog.

I didn't do nearly anything online this year. I came back from my tsunami anniversary trip to Thailand on Sri Lanka and it pretty much changed everything I ever thought about "social capital" --although I previously consulted in the online social networking, and online social media space. I've been totally enthralled by the online world ever since I realized in 1995 that since I spend all my time online, perhaps I should just go work in that industry (I was previously in the high-end computer graphics industry). Here's the full-scoop.

I walked the streets this year.That's practically all I did. From Phuket to Khao Lak to Colombo to Galle to Palo Alto to Los Gatos and many parts in between, I spent almost every part of this year offline talking and observing more people face-to-face than I have my entire life previous. Punctuated by extremely brief spurts of blogging, and a few emails that required attention (I'm notoriously always behind).

Not watching YouTube, not scouring Techmeme, pretty much not any of it if it involved booting up a laptop and staring at a screen instead of a person. "Do you know that conversation is one of the greatest pleasures in life?" Somerset Maugham

My neo-Luddite phase is behind me and I like how Peter Hamlin in Dialogue: The Fine Art of Conversation puts it: "Technology can either be used for more efficient isolation or more meaningful intimacy." [could not find this associated with Peter Hamlin, perhaps Evelyn will comment and clear that up.]

Dialogue is an opportunity to further develop this theme.

I think that's what I care about intensely these days, intimacy and relationships and god, I hate that word, but whatever, social capital.

Not the kind of social capital that scores you an executive post at a Silicon Valley start-up (but not excluding that either) but the kind of social capital that sustains us together as humans. The kind of social capital where a neighbor that knows your name walks up to your door to enthusiastically show you the new robin on the block through their binoculars, or that time you've got a sore throat and a cold, a so-called homeless stranger you just met texts you: "would ice cream make it better?"

Yvonne: What are you planning to do differently in 2007?

Evelyn: Just like my favorite writing blurs reality and fantasy, I'm intrigued by the blurring and the sweeping back and forth through the frontiers and borders of the online and offline.

Teahouses historically connote "social intimacy." So I don't think I've ever blurted this out in so many words online yet: I'm opening sometime somehow next year a teahouse that will be a hub, a nexus, a salon for the virtual and the visceral, media and the immediate, art and life.

"In contrast to the West, where tea is marked by its aristocratic associations, in the East, tea is a dietary staple for one and all, and a sign of hospitality - even in the humblest of surroundings. Chinese tea houses, India's roadside tea stalls, Afghan chaikhanas, and the little cafes of Turkey and Egypt are democratic and lively - the opposite of tea rooms in Europe. From the Mediterranean to the Pacific, teas are as varied as the people they unite." Sangmanee, Kitti Cha, et al, The Little Book of Tea.


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Liara Covert

I really enjoyed the story about Evelyn Rodriguez. How she spent her last year reminds me that each of us is on a kind of journey into isolation. Some of us use the internet to mediate conversations with people we've never met. Some of us leave all we know behind and venture out into the world to discover how we can make a difference. Rodriguez points out that no one way of contributing is better than others. Each of us must simply find our own way to the kinds of real-life connections which are most meaningful to us. For me, this includes human beings, places and feelings that connect me to God or mysteries which I may never understand. I think getting to the core of who we are requires we step as far outside our individual comfort zones as we're willing to go. This stretches us and enables growth that is better for us than we realize.

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