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Jeff Brown

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Above and Below
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Themes range from poverty to the ephemeral beauty of a sun-dappled pond, settings from post-Katrina New Orleans, a freshman dorm at a Missouri college, a sleet-slick city..  
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It is Better to Receive Than to Give
by Jeff Brown   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, December 22, 2007
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2007

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What do we do this Christmas will not determine how we act the rest of the year. But maybe we should look at reversing the Give / Receive philosophy for the betterment of all mankind.

We as a people are by and large set to transmit. We come into this world doing so. If we are hungry, tired, frustrated (all self-seeking acts) we bawl as loud as we can for attention and service. As we mature, we cut the volume but turn up the volume—meaning, we aren’t as loud be speak more. And even when we are listening, it may appear as such but we are most likely thinking about our response. How often have you merely listened with a question in mind to inspire greater understanding and promotion of what you are hearing? Certainly we have writing communities, but how many listening communities are there? How often do we stop as writers—transmitters extraordinaire—to respond to other writers? And not only respond, but do so without merely using it as an excuse to transmit some more.

I say this not because I’m good at it. I am actually a bad or developing listener. I am improving, but I focus on it more because I realize it is a lost art or something few do but many more need to, to join the listener’s club. And the problem is compounded by the fact that I live in Transmission City (Los Angeles), where everyone is a head shot and a resume. I am also a writer, lecturer, teacher, only the last one creating opportunity for listening. On top of that I am naturally introspective, a reader, and a thinker, so I am more than set up to transmit, transmit, transmit.

I was reading a book on sales and marketing the other day, and while reading a chapter on sales, the author mentioned how important it is to be interested not interesting, meaning that you should be interested in what the person is saying, not entertaining. This is fine, but unfortunately the only times I’ve heard about developing this skill is in sales literature. We are often times not inspired to do so unless it, once again, benefits us.

As an example of this phenomenon, walk into the DMV (or government run establishment of choice: post office, INS, etc.) and then go to Blockbuster. Where is the reception warm, cordial, if not outright aggressive? Yes, Blockbuster.

I was sitting on the T or subway in Boston one day heading to work. I always took a book with me because it was a great opportunity for me to catch up on my reading, and to generally avoid other people. Yes, I said it. That’s how people generally operate. Get on a bus, the subway, in an elevator and there’s not a lot of inspired conversation going on. Back to the story. At one point, a young man gets on and sits down next to me. Within seconds he’s talking. Being a hardened city-subway rider, what do I think? He’s one of three things: gay, a salesman, or a hawker of a particular religious philosophy. He was the latter.

How sad it is in this day and age that social niceties are few and far between, where people boldly ignore each other on a regular basis. My hope is that more people practice random acts of kindness. I only ask that you think more about setting to receive than transmit. Who knows, maybe it will nudge us toward that utopian society so many are looking for.

In this case it is better to receive than give.

To my brothers and sisters in writing solidarity, happy holidays.

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