The Search for A Great Charm of Eloquence in Clubhouse
Dr. Andy reflects on the new ways we are connecting even while staying socially distant
I had so much grading to do this past weekend that I almost considered having my wife Kate serve as this week’s guest blogger, for she has written an excellent little essay about our son Jukie in commemoration of National Rare Disease Day, which was yesterday.
Moments after I posted a picture of Jukie on Instagram, I got a notification on my phone informing me that Chris Brogan was inviting me to join a Clubhouse room on the topic of brevity. If you don’t know of Chris Brogan, he is a compassionate and eloquent marketing and communications expert who has written nine books, most of which I have read. And Clubhouse is a new audio social medium, an experiment in communal podcasting that gives people with iPhones opportunities to talk with others who share their backgrounds or enthusiasms. Anyway, because we were the first two people in the room, he said, “Well if it isn’t Dr. Andy!” He remembers me from being interviewed on my radio show a few times, and from our occasional correspondence over the last decade. I took a moment to tell him about the special day, about my son Jukie, and about Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome. He lamented that people who live with especially rare syndromes can’t count on the federal government or foundations funding research into the possible causes and treatments of such syndromes.
Soon the Clubhouse room was full. People flocked to the conversation not because they wanted to hear about Jukie, but because they wanted to hear some Brogan insights about the topics he knows best: connecting with others, telling stories, and making online communications valuable and meaningful. They also wanted to learn a lesson or two about brevity, which Cicero called “a great charm of eloquence” and which, as you probably know, Shakespeare called “the soul of wit.”
I had much to say on the subject, including lessons on “cutting” as the First C of Style according to Ann Raimes, on the importance of brevity in poetry (which Gwendolyn Brooks once called “life distilled”), and on the delightful training that the entire twitterverse has undergone in order to pare down their messages in 280 characters or fewer. But I chose not to share any of these fascinating lessons, because soon Chris was bringing others up to the stage, and I reminded myself that I find the Clubhouse experience much more engaging as a listener than I would if I were to “profess” longwindedly, perhaps even tediously, to everyone in the room, as professors sometimes do. As I learned more and more from Chris, from Mitch Joel, and from Kerry O'Shea Gorgone, among others, I recalled what the cynical Greek philosopher Diogenes said, "We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less."
Nevertheless, I have made contacts and perhaps some future friends on Clubhouse. Sometimes people I chat with there end up following me in other social media, and we have more of a chance to connect. When I return to live airings of my radio show (I got my second vaccination shot this past weekend!), I know that Clubhouse will be an excellent place to recruit guests. So many people in this new social medium seem eager to self-promote, and KDVS on a Wednesday afternoon reaches more people than even the most populated Clubhouse rooms (such as the ones that featured recent conversations with Bill Gates or Tiffany Haddish), so I should be able to attract a steady stream of new voices. People will they be excited to talk, to tell us how what they have to offer will change the world for the better, but will they be willing to be brief? Or will I? As the poet Rumi says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I have a few Clubhouse invitations. So far you can participate only if you have an iPhone, and only if you have an invitation. Reach out to me at email@example.com if you want to check it out, and I will share an invitation with you if I have any left. As I wrote about last week, many of us have more time to reflect, to create, and perhaps to talk with strangers during the ongoing, if possibly loosening, lockdown than before. I don’t want you to waste your time as you try to figure out how it works; that said, after you give it a chance, you might find something of value in Clubhouse.
And eventually I will try to add some value myself. While later this month I will be Zoom- hosting live Pub Quizzes at the Installation Gala for the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, I might reach even more people, including new people, if I were to host a pub quiz-style trivia contest on Clubhouse. Would you be interested in participating in a Clubhouse Pub Quiz, competing against people who might not follow the rules? The novelty of providing answers to real-time questions might appeal to you, but the prizes will be about the same as those who have participated in the quarantine quizzes that many of you have subscribed to.
Speaking of which, I really appreciate all the subscribers to the Pub Quiz, including one person who upgraded his membership last week, and someone else who subscribed at the Mithril Tier today. You subscribers make this weekly event happen, and you get to take advantage of the 50 or so bonus questions on Patreon, some of which appear in different forms on the weekly quiz. The sustaining subscribers also receive bonus goodies, which last week included a copy of the new Sanjay Gupta book, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age. Sharp brains would be one of the fringe benefits of listening to conversations with smart people, or participating in a weekly pub quiz. I look forward to doing more of both in 2021.
Thursday night at 8 Pacific Time is Poetry Night in Davis. This time we are featuring Sacramento poet laureate emeritus Indigo Moor and local memoirist and poet Andrea Ross. Both have new books out. Find out more at the Poetry in Davis website, or just plan to join us every first and third Thursday of the month at 8 PM. If Clubhouse teaches us anything, it’s that we need more synchronous community while we are staying safe in our homes.
P.S. Here are some sample questions from last week’s quiz:
Mottos and Slogans and Nicknames. What U.S. President had the nickname The American Cincinnatus?
Internet Culture. As of 2021, what is the second most-popular desktop operating system, after Windows?
Animated Films. In what 2012 animated film does the hotel chef Quasimodo and his pet rat Esmeralda learn that the film’s protagonist, Johnny, is a human and then kidnap him in order to cook him?
P.S. Please add Poetry Night to your calendar for Thursday. Here is the Facebook event page.