The New Place Setting... Fork, Knife, Spoon, Phone

I write emails in my head. I do. All the time. I think of someone and I construct the conversation in prose. Or texts. So now I am looking to communicate in basic Haiku. Nuance gone, it's laughable that we wonder why we experience so much misunderstanding.

I once had a job in Greenland back in the late 90’s and even then I was amazed at how good the reception was. My ex-husband and I talked almost everyday. And while that was good for our personal communication, I was slightly disappointed by not having the excuse, “Sorry, I couldn’t get back to you. I’m in Greenland.”

Just as there is a need to connect, there is also an almost visceral need to be able to disengage long enough to hear that infamous “still small voice”. There is a basic psychological premise called containment, the ability to have an understanding of where we end and others begin and our ability to recognize how to contain and harness all that we are. The line is now so blurry. At our finger tips, we are not just us, we are a myriad of people, many of whom we really don’t know. We finger out a thought, a response, a knee jerk reaction and believe it is connection.

But maybe not. Perhaps that thought was better used for an internal process, or the moment needed time to marinate, and the knee jerk reaction simple should have been shelved. We see the world in terms of how to send our moments to someone else and go to concerts and watch from behind the recording screen of our iPhones.

I had a great gift a couple of weeks back. I went to see Yoyo Ma at The Greek in Berkeley. He is a childhood favorite. This time it was just him, with his cello, sitting on a solo chair in the footlights. The gift was that the way he was lit made it impossible to record. No matter where you moved to, it was like he was an apparition. No one could get him on video! He was just this shining white light. Metaphor not lost on anyone. He was magical.

So, we all had to just sit and listen on this beautiful starry night. I walked away not only calm but lit myself, having time to fully absorb the music and with no shortage of epiphanies to take home born from the stillness.

Stillness is not always my forte and I know I am missing something. Quality of connection is lost for quantity and ease of connection. And often we use the ease of these devices to avoid what really needs to be said directly, landing in the heart.

Perhaps we can give up our modern day place settings… fork, knife, spoon, phone and take a moment to see who is at the table. Otherwise, you might just miss that shining light that’s impossible to record.

Worth checking out this New York Times Article on approaches to phones at the table: