The Complete Rotarian: Communications and the Twelve Senses

“This version of the Complete Rotarian used the basic information that was in the Synopsis but it expands that with personal descriptions (which are examples for any Rotarian to shape and use) and background material. It is a version that fits better on a “blog” than as an essay. The shorter version is one that can be used by an organization as well as an individual. The difference is that the Synopsis deals with broad concepts and this takes those and make them personal, dealing with “self.”

Preface: Many have wondered why in the beginning of Rotary, Paul Harris did not become discouraged since any new venture has setbacks. As one reads the history of that early time, you find that he had others around him who lifted up their collective spirits and continued the mission to create a variation from previous examples that eventually became something unique and new for the world. It seems that we are in a similar time with the Internet and breaking down boundaries between peoples of the world. Therefore to examine this time in which we live, let us imagine that it is like an artist laying out his or her tools for creating a work of art. These beginning tools are: self, a team, the human senses and communications. The goal is to create the Complete Rotarian.


Start with Self and Communications: The Complete Rotarian is an incomplete human being, using all his or her talents, skills and abilities to serve other human beings through a team effort that makes up for any deficiencies in a single individual. To build this team effort of service, we must understand some of the main ingredients for service, 1) building a team of dedicated individuals who have learned to use all their senses to communicate with each other; 2) add the dedication and passion of service; and 3) see with the vision that goes beyond surface to basic humanity. When human beings analyze the time that they spend attempting to communicate, it is not a simple addition of numbers but an examination of the process itself.

For example: Take two days in time. I sit at the computer, writing down ideas; my wife Anne is in the living room, watching her favorite show on television; we have just put down the telephone from our daughter, talking about work and free time. A little later, our daughter’s son, age-almost-four, calls to tell us that “You can come to our house this weekend to play with us. I will be good.” (I imagined that he was reacting to a conversation that he obviously has had with his mother about how he should act when we come there to grandchild-sit for this next week. I found out that I was wrong and he had come to that decision on his own which goes to prove that you cannot always determine the impetus for communication.). This evening, as is customary, we will have a two-hour telephone call from my wife’s sister (which is a weekly happening). Just before sunset, Anne and I walked the greenway with our dog. I may have said two dozen words to my wife’s longer dialogues (when we caught up to each other). Tonight in the conversation with her sister, while Anne discusses medicine, children’s health, a smattering of politics, the weather, and up-to-date happenings in our home in Houston and theirs in Pittsburgh, I plan to communicate with 23 paintings that have sat for weeks in the studio, waiting to get the push toward completion. Tomorrow, after our normal conversation: “How was your workout today at the Y?” “Good, you know, as always!,” I have a meeting at the college with my designer where the signs and brochures for a convention in Salt Lake City will be finalized (our college meeting will take less than an hour, as is our pattern).

An Observation: If you add up all the words and the body language over these two days, not much which we call “words of substance” has been said, and much of what has been said did not scratch the surface of our reality. It is called “communication” but is it? I have done more to verbalize these two days in the paragraph above than I did beside the person, talking directly, or on the telephone. I watch people putting cell phones to their ears, talking into them, but when I cannot help but ease-drop little is communicated (even in the tone of the voice). Sometimes, though, the call itself says simply a non-verbal, “I thought of you. I care.”

When human beings find a need to communicate across borders, though, they search all the options for the simplest but effective road to travel. I started as a Rotarian, now over 36 years, believing that a once a week meeting was the easiest way to make contact with my community and its leaders. That stayed true as long as my vision of the world was limited to the town, the state, the country of my origin but over the years that vision of the world as a restricted neighborhood, “island thinking,” limited by drawn lines as boundaries, had begun to expand so that these artificial limits were too restrictive. They were unrealistic to the reality that this individual lives in today’s world. I know that I went recently to study and work in the “silk road” countries to learn how men and history found ways to cross boundaries of thought, custom and culture.

A Personal History behind Change: It started in the late 1960s when I taught on World Campus Afloat. As a professor on board ship I taught about the Parthenon, walked through the Parthenon, taught about Jerusalem, walked through Jerusalem, taught about Rembrandt and walked through his home in the Gold Section of Amsterdam and room after room of his production of masterpieces. From 1970 through 1976, we lived, taught and traveled through Micronesia and the Orient from our base on the Island of Guam (“the bus stop in the South Pacific”). From 2000 through 2004, we lived in a different country each year under the Fulbright system of academic grants and service. Through all this travel, I kept in touch with my global friends. It does not take a genius to see that one’s vision of the world cannot remain the same after those experiences.

I looked around for tools to expand my Rotary experience. I have found since June of 2006, when I joined two Rotary organizations that use “virtual tools” of the Internet, emails and forums, that much can be communicated through virtual time and space. In fact, I would say much more than I found in hour meetings at weekly Rotary club gatherings. Attendance alone does not translate into communication. The possible problem with forums and emails is that it can become a closed circle of communication: self to self.

Unfolding Future History: In June, I will travel to Utah for the Rotary International Convention, and we will drive over a thousand miles. We love those trips because we talk about all the things that were not said during the weeks and months previously. Of course, when something comes up that is vital in the “now” time: we discuss it by setting off “now” time to talk. Our driving trips are free time to have an “open” discussion. After I write an article, for the website or for the newspaper, I read it to Anne and we talk, but what are behind the talk are the ideas in the writing. One can see where the art of letter writing was important for centuries. It gave form to thoughts that then could be discussed further in small groups or replied to in another letter. This is the kind of communication that is possible through electronic organizational forums. Communication is not a substitute for service but it is the essential tool to find partners in service in and to a world community.

It seems that over the Internet some of us open up more, expose our shared humanity more, and then find ways to serve our local communities and other communities “without borders.” What will take more study is that: Some do and some do not. No one really knows how this new tool of communication, the Internet, will impact one-on-one communication that should lead to collective service, but we do know that it does and has.

Also in virtual space there is the opportunity to hide “real” identity and create a “virtual persona.” Maybe that will be the challenge: to learn the clues to separate “real” from “imagined” identity. But isn’t that a problem even when you first meet someone across a table at a luncheon meeting? It takes time to communicate “reality” because human beings are so good at hiding and some live their whole lives in a skillful game of “hide and seek.” The challenge is to find a way to play “sardines” (sharing a space all together) instead of “hide and seek” (an individual closing off the world and hoping that someone finds them). The Internet is a marvelous tool to play each of those games. In one, we communicate; in the other, we shut ourselves off from communications.

Creating The Complete Rotarian: To communicate with anyone, we must know the tools with which we have to work: our senses. The Greeks in the 5th century discussed five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch, which they and early Christians connected with the universe around them: touch (or feeling) to the Earth, sound (or speech) to Water, taste to the Air, sight to Mists and smell to the South Winds (Ecclesiastes xvii.5). In the 1970s and 1980s, educators added two other recognized senses: kinesthesia (our sense of gravity, balance and animation which the ancient Greeks saw through fire- the awareness of our body, which can be seen in walking or dance) and intuition (a grouping of some of the original Greek senses mixed with “learning culture”). In the late 20th century, two more senses were recognized and added: a sense of humor (an ability to see beyond logic to the illogic of the world and smile at our “un-knowledge” and “un-explainable”) and a sense of time. At the beginning of the 21st century, we added: common sense and a sense of self/community (introspection and extrospection; the two that Howard Gardner first added to his list of the first five in the 1980s but were only recognized now). This means at present we work with eleven senses of man when we attempt to communicate. The Complete Rotarian (who is less an individual that a collection of talents and abilities) should strive to use as many of these eleven senses as possible or at least know which ones he or she is lacking so they can be recruited to serve on a team. The Rotary team is ultimately the Complete Rotarian who communicates with the world.

A Place for Joining: The Rotary Meeting: We can see the usage of these eleven senses in an ordinary “terra” Rotary meeting: we call the meeting to order with a bell or an announcement (sound), we salute the flag (sound and sight), we sing (sound and hearing), we pay a fee for fund-raising (passing the money between hands- touch), we eat (taste and smell), and we have a program to stimulate our minds and hearts (sense of time, humor, intuition, self and community). Rotarians call the meeting to an end by bringing our attention to the President again, a point in space (we have the common sense to have the meeting in an ABA form: theme, variation, theme). What is missing is a sense of diverse fellowship across borders and a sense of universality of purpose for service without boundaries. Also what is missing is getting inside each of the members, into the passions and ideas that drive them, which an eClub can do easier at a later date on the Internet. This same eClub may also have a meeting that lasts several days, therefore, when a member logs in, it is the exact time for that member to share the program (sense of time, humor, self, fellowship and intuition). Later, he or she can express their comments about the programs significant to life in general and Rotary in particular (over the forum and by email, sight and imagined sound). Communication on the forum is the equivalent to attendance at “terra” Rotary club meetings. It is not fellowship but a tool toward fellowship.

An Examination of the Senses Used for Communication:

A. Start with Ancient History:

1. Visual (or spatial/ sight): the Complete Rotarian sight is one of the important senses that get inside the individual faster than concepts or words (which have to go through a complex framework of translation, even when we know the language). The problem with visual education is that it is not taught in higher academic circles (except in rare instances). Our education system is built upon linguistic and logic skills (left brain thinking skills) whereas visualization comes from the culture (not our official schooling, and is mostly relegated to right brain thinking). We are left to learn to see through commercials, certain magazines, comic books, etc. and never have the opportunity to examine why we react to certain “images” and “ideates” (images tied to ideas). If Rotary is to use images to begin dialogues, the pictures that we see in newsletters of rows of members, shaking hands or receiving an honor, will not improve our visual education. Images for the Complete Rotarian should challenge his or her sight and therefore push it to new “insights” or “illuminations”. Also some Rotary meetings should have programs that do not tell a story but open eyes to new paths for seeing.

2. Hearing (musical/poetry/speech): the Complete Rotarian has heard, for years, stories about service, about good deeds, about principles of Rotary, about “truth”, and the leaders of Rotary who have served the world. This must be continued at meetings so that historical continuity is kept and it is good to know where you have been so that you can move to a new plateau of service. Each “terra” meeting has song which joins fellows in a special way that logic cannot do. But hearing goes to both halves of our brain: the logic side and the creative side. Some programs should be about how creative solutions were found to problems that seemed to have no answers. In eClubs, members should use tools like Skype to talk to other members. It gives flavor to the written word when one can almost hear the sound and infliction of a voice of another member over the Internet.

3. Taste: the Complete Rotarian who goes to terra meetings has a shared taste session with fellow members but the “virtual” eClub member must arrange to have an imagined “eating session” with written descriptions of the foods and how one tastes each morsel. This cannot be part of the weekly meeting program but be a part of the mentoring process of getting to know each other in the eClub. Programs can describe how taste is important in some professions and how it can help enhance many businesses and relationships. One cannot go to a foreign country without entering into the ritual of food in that place and time: such as, the “supra” in the Republic of Georgia which is more than a dinner, a gathering of friends; it is a part of the fabric of the society. When you are dealing with fellow members across the world on the Internet, customs about food and “taste” must come up in the dialogue. The Complete Rotarian should have “good taste.”

4. Touch (love, wisdom and feeling): the Complete Rotarian must find ways to “touch” fellow members and those who he or she wishes to serve. The touch is a gentle way to build “trust” (for without trust, there cannot be service). In today’s world where people can hide behind “false personas,” it is essential that we touch some aspect of that person which we know is true. Without touch, there cannot be passion; without passion, there cannot be commitment; without commitment, there cannot be “true service.” Hearing and sight are easy for the Complete Rotarian, much of his or her learning has emphasized this knowledge, but touch and smell are difficult but necessary nonetheless.

5. Smell (now, only good or bad for most people): the Complete Rotarian, as a civilized human being with an education of skills, knowledge and experience, has moved away from our need for smell to survive. Only those testing wine or criminal investigation use a highly refined sense of smell; the rest of us, even the Complete Rotarian, has lost the ability to go beyond good or bad smells. That is not saying that Rotary should not examine how we can use smell to make Rotary meetings more alive and “truthful.” Just imagine a future Rotary meeting that is discussing Turkey and each member in the real or virtual audience has the opportunity to smell the rich flavor of Turkish food, markets or industry. Smell (along with taste) may be the undiscovered country for Rotary meeting’s programs. The technology to do it is already with us.

B. Senses Recognized in the 1970s/1980s:

6. Kinesthesia (sense of gravity, balance, awareness of body and animation): the Complete Rotarian can learn from the Greeks who believed that a perfect body and mind were in union. New studies of data seem to bear this finding out as the “truth.” Also, it has been found in education, by Howard Gardner and Paul Baker, one can learn skills in mathematics and logic by learning to dance, using the counting system that comes from the movement of the body. It was at this time that a combination of some Greek senses is seen as a new sense in their own right. This may have also come from the recognition of Eastern ideas about mind and body from India and China by Western nations and individuals. It is important for “terra” Rotary clubs and “virtual” eClubs and Fellowships to have a rule that each member attends an actual luncheon meeting, either in their local community or at district or Rotary International Conventions. The act of moving around and shaking hands is important to the Complete Rotarian. Also service project “outside the box” of their own country is vital to the new point of view in the world for Rotary. A sense of kinetics has many offshoots: thermoception (heat/cold/cool), nociception (pain/pleasure/numbness), equillbrioception (balance), and proprioception (body awareness/blood pressure/heartbeat/nerves).

7. Intuition (a seemingly irrational revelation/combination of the first five senses): the Complete Rotarian, who has worked on the first five senses and begun to master them, needs to use this tool of intuition to take the mass of data that comes with the modern world and digest it quickly, coming up with accurate decisions. Although this was started and recognized as a sense in the 1980s by Gardner and other psychologists, it did not find a complete analysis until Gladwell wrote about it as “thin slicing” in 2004. It is the ability to take a mountain of information, cut through its layers and see the truth of its existence; such as, an art historian looking at a work and knowing instantly “original” or “fake” but not be able until later to verbalize the analysis. The Complete Rotarian must in some situations be able to understand something in his or her “gut” with accuracy for the team giving a service. Again, this is where team members must “trust” the person with the most experience in a specific area of knowledge.

C. Senses Recognized in the late 20th Century:

8. Humor (a sense of humor is a rare ability to accept opposites as both “true”): the Complete Rotarian must have or learn to have a keen sense of humor because sometimes (‘in service above self” and “service without borders”) the seeming insanity of the world interacts with the logic that we expect from other human beings and nature’s happenings. Laughter is a rare medicine that can cure a situation and help a Rotary team move forward when logic mixed with emotion says, “Stop, go home!” Humor is the stepchild of the right brain functioning at its highest capacity. The question, “Where do we go from here?” is like a similar question: “What is the difference between a duck?” Since there is no answer, any answer will start a team or individual moving. When you don’t know which road to take in a service venture, any road will get you there.

9. Time (a sense of time is a universal ability): the Complete Rotarian knows instinctively the duration of an action, the pauses in a sentence, and where in the history of time they exist. Some questions, when a service project is underway, take historical thinking (living in a past that is happening now- much of the Middle East), or future thought (putting oneself in a time ahead, such as: creating a vision statement for a project or an organization). Time became a specific recognized sense when science identified the “basal ganglia and parietal lobe as responsible for the perception of the passage of time.” Of course, now is when we named it as a sense; actually, there has always been a “sense of time.” We are born, we live and we die. Projects in Rotary by a team, which I have called The Complete Rotarian, have a shelf- life: they are born, they live and they end in some fashion.

D. Senses Recognized in the early 21st Century:

10. Common Sense (a sense of a “right decision” in a culture): the Complete Rotarian must be able to think as an “ordinary citizen”. It is called, “using your common sense”. It is a sense of “truth” in a specific community, while also using a universal truth that transcends borders. Programs at Rotary meetings and workshops at conferences by Human Resource experts can help the Rotary team to understand the essential elements of “common sense” in a specific society or a wider society of basic human values: freedom, worth, recognition, truth, fairness, etc. At this juncture in Rotary’s history, the new senses are overlapping with the old, joining with and combining with older senses to create new ones. .

11. Self/community (the sense of self and community are basic to a global perspective): the Complete Rotarian must “know thyself” (a precept of the Solon of Athens, 5th century BCE) and know that a community can do wonders when they work together- “nothing is impossible to industry” (Persander of Corinth, 5th century BCE). Paul Harris certainly knew the discoveries of Freud and others. The Complete Rotarian must start with the inner circle of self and expand actions/ideas out to fill the community of a world. Many Rotary programs today deal with the wider community. Few programs examine “self” therefore it is important that the membership, who are the “messengers” of the Complete Rotarian, become the “message” that is sent out in the programs of the Rotary Club. For a rule to live by when working in a community, one can go to Cleobu’los of Lindes, early Greek BCE, who gave us: “the golden section” which told us to avoid “extremes.” Individual Rotarians may embrace extremes when that tactic is needed to fulfill a service and will not discredit the mission of service. Much can be learned from a study of the ancient Greeks: such as, wise counsel was given by Chilo of Sparta when he said, “Consider the end” and by Pittacos of Corinth, saying “Seize time by the forelock.”

E. Needed: A Future Sense for 2020:

12. World Wise (this is a growing 2007 sense that has consumed business, politics, some individuals and nations but it is still in its infancy): the Complete Rotarian, who lives part of his life on the Internet, who flies anywhere in the world to make contacts and a deal, who gives service across borders while breaking down barriers, who speaks through the airwaves with like-individuals who have values that are universal for humanity, who uses technology as an extension of self and ideas, who is trained in peace and conflict resolution, going out to bring people together for the betterment of all and who see the world through a satellite vision, is the Rotarian of the future (even if he lives in the present “now”). A sense of world wise is more than action, more than thought, more than an ideal; it is a sense of global understanding, a sense that issues are not local any longer but worldwide. We see the globe of the Earth as our collective “village.” The Complete Rotarian, who is “world wise,” uses all eleven senses as if they were one.

Prologue: One may ask, “Is there an individual who is the Complete Rotarian?” The answer must be, “Maybe!” “Are there Rotary teams of individuals who could be called “the Complete Rotarian”? The answer rings out loud and clear, “Certainly!”

How can this dialogue about communication and the twelve senses be used to create the Complete Rotarian? These studies and observations have been with us for centuries and have been used in the past to deal with the present and shape the future. They are still valuable as tools for that job. But it should be stated , these discussions of the eleven senses and how they might be used as communication tools or abilities is only important if you do not have those abilities. If you have them, it is like the fish and basket idea. When you are catching the fish, you need the basket (a line, a fishing hock, bait, etc); if you already have the fish, you need none of this. If you can use most of these senses already to their and your fullest measure, you can put your efforts to service, mission, fellowship and forget the means.

Or as Rotary teaches: “Join, Say, Think, Do!”

RGHF Historian Joseph L. Kagle, Jr., 23 May 2007