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The Flower Gift

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One of jeanne's Tulips from Turkey drawings.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: April 22, 2006
Latest Update: April 22, 2006

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Index of Topics on Site Offering a Flower: The 21st Century Version

The Hippie Movement of the '60's offered something wonderful that has often been overlooked.. Young hippies felt that their parents had focussed in on the wrong values that had led to global catastrophes like the Vietnam War. In an attempt to make their parents and the world in which they lived understand their values, they offered flowers to all, including strangers; flowers symbolic of love and caring for others, for all living creatures. They put up posters saying "War is Bad for Children and All Living Things."

And they shared this need to bring the world back to love and caring with everyone they encountered. All Others belonged to their newly discovered world of love and caring. No one was excluded. A kind of citizenship of the world. There were no models of this new loving collaboration and breakdown in exclusivity, nationality, race, gender, religion. So they just offered the flower, and let it speak for itself.

We accept the gentleness and caring of offering whatever you have, a flower, a kind word, a smile, a hope, a wish. But we'd like to add to that sharing an invitation to dialog. To talk about what matters. And to share our understanding of difference. Of different cultures. Of different beliefs. Of different knowledge.

Our sharing doesn't ask that you agree with us, or that we agree with you. It just asks that you accept our gift of sharing in the spirit in which it is offered, that of coming to know you, who you are, what you like, what you don't like, why and how we might be different from each other, and yet so alike as humans.

The code language for this offer to dialog is "illocutionary discourse," dialog in which we try to listen in good faith to one another and understand each other as fellow humans.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why would we want to give a gift?

    The gift plays many roles:

    • If neither long-lasting nor expensive, it is easy and socially acceptable as an informal and friendly exchange. We used to offer cigarettes until we discovered they were slowly killing the environment and us, with it. That was part of the genius of the hippie's flower gift.

    • Gifts were often brought in times past in token of respect for another's authority. All the tribute brought to courts of old. The gifts of the Three Wise Men to the Child Jesus. . . .

    • Offering a gift is a way to broach a dialog, to talk to the other.

    • With a gift to admire, we have a way to open the dialog.

    • With a gift to focus on, we have a focus for our eyes, which make it socially acceptable to avert our eyes, not to look the other in the eye. That may make illocutionary discourse easier. For example, might make it easier for us not to call each other "stupid."

      Don't forget that we've been taught to never discuss politics or religion. Every social issue involves politics and religion, for every social issue involves the distribution of available resources (including the value of human work) and every social issue involves religion,in the guise of values and justice and fairness and equal access to available resources. That means that a socially acceptable focus to avert the eyes is useful to giving us some stress-free time to approach one another.

    • With a gift to legitimize averting our eyes, we can enter into and back out of the discourse with greater ease.

    • With a gift that the other may take away, be it ever so small, the other will be reminded of the exchange for so long as he/she has the gift.

    • Bookmarks are good, if the other likes to read.

    • Boxes are good, especially if we want to draw analogies to the simplicity of the box as seen from the outside, masking the complexity of what is inside. I think it is probably best if we can find some small thing to put in the box.

    • Cards are good. We have a long-standing tradition of card-giving, though I suspect it may be slanted toward the female gender. I am personally fondest of interactive cards, like the waterfall card or the penny card. People like things they can play with.

    • Sculptures or cut-outs that stand on their own or good, as they will often continue to be noticed for a longer period of time.

References:

    On the Origin of Tulips

  • The Origin of Tulips - and Knowingness
  • A Rambling Romp through Tulip History On the Dirt Gardener Site (http://www.dirtgardener.com). Consulted on April 23, 2006.
  • Wild Tulips and Daffodils by Ray Allen, President, AmericanMeadows.com. I actually did learn to call daffodils "jonquils" in New Orleans when I was growing up. jeanne

    On the Importance of Body Language and "Averting the Eyes"

  • Infant sensitivity to deviations in dynamic facial-vocal displays: the role of eye regard. By Caron AJ, Caron R, Roberts J, Brooks R.. Department of Psychology, Boston University, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

  • Speak English with Body Language
    "Facial expressions are a very common way that we use to communicate every day. When speaking English, it's generally good to smile at your listener from time to time, especially when he or she has made an interesting comment. Also nod your head up and down to show you are really interested. From time to time, you can add a sound of agreement, such as "Uh huh" or even just "mmmm", to show you are listening. Above all, it is important to maintain eye contact while listening. Sometimes it is okay to move your eyes away when you are speaking, because you do have to think about what you want to say. However the listener should almost always look at the speaker without moving the eyes away (without "averting" the eyes)."

    Given the importance of eye contact in body language, you can see why the use of a small gift as a legitimate means of averting the eyes can be very helpful in approaching illocutionary discourse.

  • Examining Nonverbal Communication: Effective Jury Selection Consulted on April 22, 2006.
    "Eye contact. The willingness or ability of potential jurors to make and maintain eye contact during questioning can be a measure of the anxiety they feel. If there is anxiety or tension in the interaction between the lawyer and potential jurors, this tension will build up over time. As the tension rises, potential jurors will respond by breaking eye contact (through either averting the eyes or blinking). When eye contact is broken, the tension level temporarily decreases and the jurors can resume eye contact with the lawyer in the interaction. When the potential juror is anxious (possibly as a result of being deceptive), breaks in the normal pattern of eye contact occur, with potential jurors averting their eyes at critical times or blinking more often."

Flower Gift Project

No one I've talked to since coming home from the eclipse has known that tulips originated in the Ottoman Empire, not in Holland, and that Turkey claims the tulip as its own. Wouldn't that be a fun piece of information to share?

  • Take the illustration above to make a small card.

    Then paste a brief story of the tulip inside the card.

    "Today most people (even in [Holland - the Netherlands]) still say that tulips originally came from Turkey. . . and that is where their natural habitat is. But this is only partly true. A significant percentage of the tulips cultivated in the Netherlands originated from areas now considered part of Russia, around the Black Sea, in the Crimea, and from the steppes located north of the Caucasus. However in the 1500s when the tulips were first introduced into Europe, these areas belonged to what was called the great Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire or Persia. It is known that the Turks were cultivating tulips as early as 1,000 AD. Before tulips ever reached Europe, they had enjoyed a long and rich cultural history in Persia.

    The Development of the Name "Tulip" The most obvious explanation for how the tulip got its name was its resemblance to the headgear worn by many people in the Middle East, such as the Persians -- the turban, that was also written as "toliban". Changed into Latin, this became "tulipa". With a little imagination, the flowers of some tulips do look like a turban. The actual origin of the word is unknown.">

    From The Ottoman Empire The Discovery Channel Site. Consulted April 23, 2006. The Turban that looks like a tulip.



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Dear Habermas:
Teaching web site with original text and imagery.
Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Updated April 2006

Rafi's Birds