benjamin abegunde

Founder, YIESMAN

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How does one not acquiesce to suffering?

After I finished watching Natalie's talk , I showed my roommates and of course we all were inspired. Then I asked a question that, "why is it that the citizens of western nations seem to be so eager to help but while we here in the east seem to accept and in a way acquiesce to the hardship around us?"

The only conclusion I came up with is that when you see suffering 24/7 especially in Nigeria, you are tempted to just see it as the norm. Even after relocating to Nigeria I have been tempted to do this.

So the question is how do we prevent this?

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    Nov 30 2011: Good question/comment. I don't know why but my last comment was not recorded but it 'boils' down to this. People often adjust to the horrible conditions of their life because they happen gradually. It's like the story of the frog and the cooking pot. If a frog is put into a pot of boiling water then it immediately jumps out but if the frog is put into a pot with cool water that gradually heats up to boiling then it just sits there, not realizing that the temperature in the water has turned up to boiling.

    Also, just so you know, we in the West adjust to horrible conditions, or grow accustomed to the plight of other people around us, too. We have a big homeless population problem that most people don't even acknowledge having. But we just dismiss it, or judge people to be in that position of their own choosing, but never consider the circumstances that brought them there in the first place. I attribute this to misguided judgment on the human condition.

    We as humans judge and assess our world around us-that is a human behavior that seems normal, to some extent. It is one way we learn about our surroundings. But when we judge people to 'deserve' the life they live, or to deserve the condition that they are in because, in our view, they "don't try hard enough", or because somehow "these" people somehow chose to be victims of their own circumstances--that is wrong.

    We cannot judge someone to live in strife and squalor because we think they are okay with it. Remember the frogs--frogs and us--we may not be so far apart.
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      Nov 30 2011: Wow, I like that frog story, in fact in a way you gave me a piece to this puzzle and that is simply "knowledge". It is not until another frog tells the frog in the boiling water that, "Hey Mr. Frog, if you don't get out your finished!" Or the frog in the pot comes to the realization that there is something better out there. So maybe one piece that we and other countries need is enlightenment in a contemporary fashion. Thanks!
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        Nov 30 2011: You are welcome, Benjamin, and I agree. Until the frogs see something better-they may be complacent sitting in that hot water that will ultimately kill them!

        I hope they listen when we tell them they are in the water and I hope we do what we can to get them out. It is truly our human duty to try, at the very least.

        *Oh, and I made a correction to 'population' in my original post--I meant to say "homeless population".

        Yeah, I know it seems silly to live in one of the richest countries in the world and yet still have homeless people but it's true.
  • Dec 4 2011: Do simple things consistently and conscientiously and you would have changed the world in your own little way. Live within the realities of your immediate enviroment but with a simple mind of "a heart at a time" touched with goodness from you is better than a grandiose idea that certain realities of your immediate enviroment migth make almost imposssible.
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      Dec 4 2011: Just so you know, my only point about family size was in the cultural context. Talking about and ecouraging, a focus on small well educated families in regions of great poverty, is one of the little things you can do to help encourage a strong social structure. If a family with two workers, has one child specifically, it is much easier to get that child a higher priced education, but in regions of great turmoil, of course, it is a risk, that you will lose your one.

      Religion, has made this a difficult thing to talk about culturally, but it really is one of those little consistencies that helps make a community more profitable, and strong, in an everyday, conscious way. That, and most birth control programs are already underway, and easy to support. Talking about condoms, encouraging women to make men wear them despite the fact they're awful... these are little conversations people can have, that go a long way. Birth control, and encouraging a focus of resources on one or two children, makes it easier for social structures to thrive and educate their young.

      Talking about those things and influencing your local community, is something we're actually failing to do in America once again, condom use is down... Porn is replacing casual sex though, there are lots of weird cultural problems, or solutions, that Americans aren't really comfortable talking about yet, coming into play... but my point is that all cultures, would do well to remind themselves to try and talk about traditional family structures, birth control, family size, and even the taboo subject of sex in general, in a more open, intellectual way. I would suggest this is at least one of the little ways you can do good work. Certainly not the only.

      I link this talk a lot, but that's cus it's a great one http://www.ted.com/talks/zimchallenge.html
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      Dec 12 2011: Bravo! Divide and conquer it what that seems like, as well as focusing.
      Most helpful!
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    Dec 13 2011: If I understand the question; we are wondering why people who witness the suffering of others are able to accept it, walk away from it, or deny it. Even personal suffering we can deny. We are able to do things to ourselves we know is detrimental! How is this? For me...
    In the past I have been guilty of this to the extreme of becoming nearly criminal. I am guilty of witnessing incidents of neglect and abuse involving animals, people and the earth. Sometimes, it was not easy to deny or justify what I knew to be wrong, and I am sure there were situations when i was simply to confused or ignorant to the causation and my apathetic mind submitted. I understand that in my life, I have spent the majority of it out of balance. Some indigenous people have called this 'two-hearts. When I was living and walking with two hearts there was no communication between my heart and mind. This allowed me to say "I believe in this ", or "I believe in that." except when to study my 'walk', it became obvious that I did not believe in anything at all. Only what protected myself at the time. My heart was not strong enough to wiegh in on the debate, and my mind won alll the arguments. The mind is guilty in a child-like selfishness, not determined to injure through neglect, the mind wanted to protect me, wanted to get everything I needed with little regard for the safety of others. My way out of this quagmire was learning from others who were familiar with honoring truth. Different spiritual and religious teachings express the food for the spirit is truth. My heart needs truth to be strong. People need stronger hearts. It is not natural to accept the suffering of others, this is a quick intellect who lives without the companionship of a healthy heart. Honoring truth is the way to repair this communication of the heart and mind. A one-hearted walk is when the heart and mind agree on all actions and behavior. Now, I feed my heart first. Acquiecence is no longer an option
  • Dec 9 2011: Benjamin, I read your question over a week ago, and I have been meditating on it and reading about it, and talking to others. Here, in a few words, I have something that might shed some light on your concern.
    A small knowledge of human nature will convince us,” George Washington wrote in 1778, “that, with far the greatest part of mankind, [self] interest is the governing principle; and that almost every man is more or less, under its influence. . . . Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise.”
    It has been impossible for any man to deal in an absolutely perfect and just way with his fellowman. Selfish personal interests either color or dominate his judgment and actions. And, try as men may to legislate against these inherent weaknesses, these cannot be set aside by any human government. “No system of government—whether by a monarch, dictator, tyrant, aristocracy, oligarchy, republic, pure democracy, or the Communist Party—has ever been devised that will insure that good and wise leaders will always steer the ship of state,” writes Laurence Beilenson in The Treaty Trap. “That is because those who select them or acquiesce in their rule have been people. . . . Nor are the people the rulers govern good and wise."

    The problem you want to prevent, is not mutually exclusive to Nigeria, or Africa, of India, or even the United States.
    To acquiesce, which comes from the Latin "to rest", is part of keeping peace. In my opinion, although humans acquiesce to suffering for different reasons, the prevention of it is in my opinion impossible. The real question is, how do we stop the suffering?

    What is at the root of the suffering? Do you know?
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      Dec 12 2011: Hmm now this is food for thought, this reminds me of the, "state of nature" propounded by Thomas Hobbes saying how society gives up its rights to a sovereign body otherwise known as the, "moral entrepreneurs". It seems like to answer a question one, needs to ask more questions, it is true that suffering is not exclusive to only Nigeria, and this is just going to be the way things are if Jesus tarries. But now how does one mitigate against this suffering? One can only know the amount of roots a tree has by digging deeper and deeper, I can only see the problems that I have dug into with the amount of knowledge that I have and have handled, but for me, one root out of the many roots that I know is ignorance. But ignorance of what is another question? Seems like I have so much more digging to do, but I am getting closer.
      Thank you so much!
      • Dec 12 2011: You are very welcome.
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    Nov 29 2011: I think maybe it's because the hardship that people see, not just in Nigeria but other countries that faces difficulty as well, is not of their own making. Maybe the government is imposing too much control or rigidity, the economic barrier is too high to be overcome, that everything is larger than they as an individual are.

    People develop an acquiesce to suffering because it's practically hard for them to overcome it, not least when they are divided and act individually. While the 'arab spring' has seen people standing up against government and the development politically in a nation, economic conditions are harder to overcome as skills, capital and condition becomes a barrier harder to overcome without help externally. Perhaps this is why micro-financing institution spreading to developing countries has gained traction as people with the skills necessary, be it in finance or law, contribute to ease access over these barriers.
  • Dec 11 2011: It is linked with buging/teasing-for ex. when there is a group of people and someone they teas (there must be better word in english for that-I mean razz/tick off) well if it starts, there is always ca 3 groups -1)some few who do it actually 2)some who are agree 3) some % who do not do nothing-so this group what does not do nothing is the worse of them
    how does? well it is comfortable-people think that if it is there, it is not my problem, but they do not understand that world is small , it affects us (well if not us than our kids) so it comes back. the second is that this is non-punishable it means my situation will not be less better if I do or if I do not do -so why I have to , do I have to, and so on .......
    To do different is hard, to think main street is simple-comfortable-to good life i think, no worries, no troubles-only in trouble and hard work ( in mind and all)teach something, gives the value, but the value it self comes from home, childhood .......childhood comes from parents ..like one of my work-pal told me kids are the home-mirror...lets hope that there are more open minded people.....than those things will be less......
  • Dec 9 2011: Let us see things in a different perspective:
    We citizens living in western countries have more, there for we can help more. I do not believe that it has to do with being use to seeing poverty or devastation, I believe it comes down to the simple fact that one can only help when one has enough to go around. I have witnessed poverty, destruction, violence beyond normal measure and yet I will continue to help when I can, when I have the resources for such an act wether that is on a monetary level or a personal level. Seeing things and then accepting they are the norm does not make one choose to not help, it does not make one numb to the suffering around. Self preservation is what creates such a feeling, and one enters that mode when one is incapable of offering something of value to the world and the situation at hand.
  • Dec 9 2011: Benjamin
    I think one of the keys is to remember that the suffering "out there" is being endured by real people, people like us. The second thing is to do something, not everything, not solve it (it can't be done) but do something. Whatever that something may be in your context, do something..
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    Dec 9 2011: I really appreciate the question! I believe that there are two roots to suffering: Entropy, and the design of the Food Chain.
    Humanity needs to manage these two phenomenon (2 roots of suffering). Humanity can manage Entropy and the Food Chain to decrease suffering (i.e. grow our protein and amino acids, or create more Laboratories instead of Restaurants, or focus on cancer instead of sales) or, we can hasten Entropy and the Food Chain (i.e. blow stuff up, steal, and waste food)

    Entropy and the Food Chain already create suffering. Humanity can either try to alleviate unnecessary suffering, or keep doing what we are doing. As I type this comment, a Lion just ate a Zebra and the Zebra cubs, my bank charged me 30 dollars for overdraft, millions of people have cancer, or are hungry.
    • Dec 9 2011: @Thomas Anderson: I found your comment very interesting....because I did not understand the concept of entropy, I looked up some information. Could you tell me if by what I wrote below I understood it?

      Entropy is defined as “the ultimate state reached in the degradation of the matter and energy of the universe.” It is the principle we sometimes complain about as our house deteriorates and needs repair, our clothing wears out and things rust away. The physical and chemical action of weather, and friction from usage, gradually tear them down. All material things are indeed corruptible. Left to themselves, they tend toward decay and disintegration, necessitating constant work and expense of repairs, as well as causing problems of garbage disposal. There is a continual running down of things, like a clock that needs rewinding periodically.

      If entropy did not exist it would mean that no chemical action could affect anything. Nor could friction wear it down. As a consequence, nothing could be cut or sawed; nothing could be changed. It would be a sterile world. There would be no work for anyone to do. In fact, life on earth would be impossible, for, since no chemical action could occur, no food could be either grown or eaten and digested.


      Seems to me that entropy is a blessing......not a root to suffering. Entropy is a necessary evil if life is to function. And, although the human body has the capacity to renew itself, eventually we grow old and die.

      What I don't understand is, if the law of entropy exists, why hasn't the universe wasted away......why is it still here and continue to be orderly?

      Maybe I need to read some more. But if you can answer some of my concerns I would appreciate it.

      By the way, do you think people acquiesce to suffering because of entropy and food shortages??? I didn't understand how your answer relates to Benjamin's question.

      Thanks:)
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        Dec 9 2011: Thank you for reading my comment, and helping me stay focused on Benjamin's question! I think that people acquiesce to suffering because they cannot manage Entropy or the Food Chain.

        Entropy is not evil, but it is one of two roots of suffering. The Food Chain is a lousy system of energy transfer that actually requires suffering to occur. At this time, Entropy is managing Humanity rather than Humanity managing Entropy. Also, Humanity is being controlled by fear and anger, caused by the Food Chain instincts of animals (and plants that eat animals).

        The Universe is so big that we cannot readily see the effects of Entropy on it; however, the universe is growing wider, galaxies are moving further away from each other, and heat is being dissipated. Eventually in a gazillion years, the Universe will be...entropic-ized.
        • Dec 9 2011: Thanks for your reply....Now, how did you arrive at your theory?

          I have never heard such reasoning before.

          I sincerely want to know if this is based on scientific data, studies or the likes.

          If it is only your own personal opinion and noone else shares it, I would appreciate knowing that also.

          Thank you:)
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        Dec 10 2011: Thanks for asking. I have not found anyone else that shares my theory yet. People seem to take the "There are an infinite amount of problems" point of view, and lose focus on what is important. I have not done any professional research in the area, but I have been working in the educational psychology field for over 20 years, and I was looking for a way to simplify things.

        No one has been able to give me any problem that does not relate to Entropy or the Food Chain. Crime? relates to both. Ethics? both. The only thing I cannot do is combine Entropy and the Food Chain into just One problem. That is where Religion would have to come in, with a theory that an Evil force created the Food Chain, and Evil forces Entropy into the wrong areas. Therefore, Evil would be the One problem. I do not think Humanity should give Evil any attention, rather it should manage Entropy and the major design flaw of the Food Chain.(Accentuate the positive, and the negative is minimized)

        When I walk around a University Campus, I feel disappointed when I realize that the people from the Physics lab are not communicating with the people from the Oncology lab, because resources will not allow. If the two labs worked together, imagine how much more quickly cancer could be managed?
  • Dec 7 2011: This is more of a mindset issue. Most people in Nigeria will tell you how they love reading and you are shocked to see that their vast libraries are filled with only motivational books. Or how Nigerians cannot separate religion from the things going on around them. In between the motivational books (whose purpose is to set free from suffering) and religion (whose purpose coincidentally is to set free from suffering) lies a point where there is a balance. And I believe this point to be a mindset overhaul that replaces the stink with a charged belief that motivational books and religion are only tools, not actions.
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    Nov 30 2011: To overcome this faster... Portable electricity, legallized pornography, and a tax that provides free contraception... For portable electricity, you need to boil water, with mirrors, and or magnifying glasses. It's a new technology, it's impossible to patent, and you can make the materials with recycled trash, or glass/sand. Glass making is hard work, it's time consuming, and Europeans don't want to do it anymore, so it's going to be a long time before a billionaire brings Nigeria this technology... The people could learn to bring it to themselves.

    You'll need to experiment, I'm buying an old boarded up house near Las Vegas soon to test, so I might be the billionaire that comes there eventually... Outcompete me : )

    Pornography, and electricity, have domesticated the western man, and turned us into lazy cowards, that just kinda do what we're told... and I highly recommend it.. lol.
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      Nov 30 2011: lol I will pass on the pornography, at least fantasies of food will come before fantasies of women lol, and that's a nice idea especially for the rural and traditional settings where technology and crowd accelerated innovation is low, just hurry up and be that billionaire so you can contribute over here!
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    Nov 30 2011: This may be an unpopular, and even a bit of a depressing answer because it's so hard to overcome... But, I'd have to put my money on life expectancy and sex drive.

    Sex drive, simply in the sense that, and I just wikied this so it might be wrong, but on average, the number I got, was 4.88 children per family in Nigeria. This creates depression, because no man or woman works hard enough, to earn enough money to feed 7 people... Smart people give up, because they can't support the ever increasing population. Meanwhile Europeans, and Americans, are literally averaging less than one child per two people. We've given up on supporting a large family... So we have nothing but time on our hands, our kids are spoiled, and we wish there was more we could do with our money. Curbing population is necessary I think, but it's so hard to enforce. I heard they're thinking about a 3 child rule, but can people tolerate it?

    The other is life expectancy... Europeans and Americans live until they're 80, so they think more long term. There were scientists that tried to blame this on genetic race, but it seems much more likely to me, that if you're brought up in a culture with a 40 year life expectancy, you never get taught to think long term. I think brains develop differently under different circumstancess. I think Europeans and Americans, think they're going to live 40 more years than Nigerians, so they're much more confident they can accomplish long term goals.

    I will say there is one other factor though. Self report... Everyone says they want to help in Europe... but who's actually helping 1, 2%? I don't think we're as much more caring or engaged than anyone else, I think we just like to say we are... The hopefull side to all this, is that those things are all improving. The number of children per family is going down almost worldwide, as life expectancy goes up. Also, Americans and Europeans are putting a bit more money where there mouth is. Time heals all.
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      Nov 30 2011: I appreciated you comment. I would have, however, instead of using 'sex drive', said 'birth control'.

      I did not know life expectancy was 40 years. That is astonishing to me.
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        Nov 30 2011: I think it's probably higher than that now... but as recently as 20 years ago, almost all of Africa, especially rural communities, were only in the high thirties. I'm a bit of a vulgar rabble rouser, and a bit of a stoic, so I'm all about controlling emotion, "must control sex drive"... but you're right birth control would be better terminology.

        Sex drive might be a bit offensive, but I like to think they're both a bit accurate too. I think America starting out as those weird prude puritans actually helped us out a bit in terms of wealth and life expectancy, even though I'm glad we've given it up. Culture plays a role, birth control definately plays a bigger role in modern times though.
        • Dec 4 2011: Life expectancy may be yes but family size? in Nigeria it isn't much of family size but more of a catastrophic colapse of the social structure.
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    Nov 30 2011: I would like to attribute this mostly to laziness. Not physical laziness but mental laziness. Most Nigerians act and are ignorant and the informed ones are nonchalant over towards change. We want to receive and not give. We are mentally lazy as we are constantly not actively innovative
  • Dec 13 2011: What if hardship isn't what the easterners are starting to get used to? What if economic imbalance caused the people in the west to care because they have more and the people in the east to not care because they can't spare any? What the East may be accepting is that: "No one is doing anything about hardship." What if the people of the East are getting conditioned to "not alleviating hardship" and not hardship itself? Frankly, I think the question is about when are the easterners going to wake up and think about where their share of the earth is going to?
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    Dec 13 2011: Also what can the givers (country) of the aid do? Such as change the taxes laws for their corporations doing business there. Buildings, schools, a grocery store, and fulfilling basic needs to bring the culture into a modern world where they have a factory, somewhat like GE has done. Be best to have the American companies do that type of thing to receive all of the tax breaks they already do get from America. I am even less familiar with other countries corporate tax law to speak for them.
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    Dec 13 2011: You seem to have sparked many peoples' interest, so hopefully I will not be too redundant.

    It isdespair that causes you to acquiesce. Being submerged in the vast ocean of human tears, shed by the millions of neglected and suffering people around you, it is easy to feel as though you will drown that you will never find the shore. Feeling that you are too small to face against the titans of social/political/environmental injustice (which leads to hardship). Knowing you mayhave to fight all your life, it is easier to relent than fight, it is easier to despair. Maybe it is a difference in parenting (east vs west), my parents always said I could do ANYTHING when I grow up. Perhaps, that naieve but inspiring sentiment is not told to enough children in Affrica.

    Be aware that happiness does not rest on the condition that you are free from hardship. I have known manypeople with seemingly charmed lives that still could find reasons to complain because inside (where happiness starts) they were miserable. Like flowers raised indoors, when exposed a harsh breeze, they break and wilt. People in underprivelaged countries, having been exposed to the cruel winds all their lives, they weather the storm. Hard life or easy life, happiness starts within.

    So how to prevent aquiescing? Face the titans, fight injustice/cruelty/greed, knowing that in your life time you may not win, but as long as you keep fighting, you will never lose. Know in your heart that you are NOT ALONE, and when you stand with others who will work with you, you need not despair. Find the happiness in the little ways you change things/help people, and in the knowledge you are doing what's right. Even if it is only in a small way, YOU MATTER.
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    Dec 12 2011: Thank You, Benjamin, for asking this question. If I may, here is my response:

    There is no preventing suffering - it is a natural season of life, but there IS the acceptance of love and the ever-changing impermanence of Life. When we look at each other, SEE each other, there will be a Great Shift into Oneness. Happiness and Sorrow are the same - they are seasons. Human beings are the same, in that we are Manifestations of Consciousness.

    When people are accustomed to their own reality, there are usually hesitant or fearful of believing in or beginning a new one.

    Since we are in a Human Life, it means that there is loss, because life changes and circumstances are adverse, we will inevitably suffer, but when we return to source of our being, our guiding Heart, we will be joyous.
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    Dec 11 2011: Suffering is so hard to describe and even identify. One thing is sure: we all suffer. At best, it is never far-removed from our day to day lives and can permeate our lives in the blink of an eye and cause such pain.... But to acquiesce to suffering IS the key to coping with it.
  • Dec 7 2011: The reason why you are really poor is that you really want too many babies that you must surpport.
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    Dec 4 2011: eagerness to progress as an individual is really the first step to stand out and not accept the 'norm'
  • Nov 30 2011: I loved the talk by Natalie! In response to your question, what she says at the end rings true to me - 'In the the small, anonymous, monotonous everyday acts, I have to remind myself to be extraordinary'. That is the same everywhere, for everyone in hardship. I don't agree with the frog thing, sorry! I don't think it does humans justice. To get through, its not about accepting, giving in, seeing it as the norm, drip, drip, drip, getting used to it. I think humans have an amazing, realistic capacity for survival and it is the survival mode that kicks in when horror is all that there is to see. We couldn't cope if we were in a permanent state of shock. So that reaction shuts off. We see it. We sense it. And we carry on. What else could we do? That is bravery, not acquiescence. 'In the the small, ...monotonous, everyday acts'...
    As for people in the west, too fat, too spoiled, too much time using up the worlds resources. Luckily, there are people like Natalie who's life experience by chance has lead her to where she is and she has the resources and the networks. And she has the freedom of choice to do what she did. And a personal social history to build on. Thoughtful Community building to solve problems, sharing thinking, sharing. Talking.