It is unavoidably true that we live in a world that is far busier and more filled with obligations than ever. In recent months, I have found myself in more and more conversations where people are wanting to email or text in order to arrange for a phone conversation to happen. Being a free spirit and not one to love being bound to appointments when not necessary, I have found this trend strange and amusing each time it arises. I am sure that many times people are looking to make a phone call when the recipient of the call is definitely available, and that by planning deliberately, this is more likely to happen. But I can’t help wonder just how much of this kind of communication is an unnecessary distraction, one that could be simply avoided altogether by taking a chance and picking up the phone in an attempt to reach the person in mind. Personally, I am much more likely to call you just because I’m thinking of you, or to at least send an email or a text message. When I saw the above message earlier today, it resonated with me and I was inspired to share it forward.
We live in an era where instant technology is a reality. We have so many fast ways of connecting with each other, all available at our fingertips. And yet, I have observed people being more and more out of touch, experiencing less connection, or at least less meaningful connection, than ever. Before the age of cell phones, it was always a nice surprise when the phone would ring. Caller ID was such a novel treat, to know when it was your dear friend or family member calling, and when to avoid picking up for a telemarketer. Now, people text each other while driving, using illegible text slang and abbreviations, and are too busy to make an actual call much of the time, as well as being bogged down by reading and responding to emails… and what to say of actual time together? How many times do we see people spending time together while plugged in to computers or texting other people on handheld devices? Far too often, if you ask me.
There is something deeply satisfying about spending quality time with people we care about. There is something wonderful about putting away the devices and turning off the ringer, letting the other person know that they matter so much that they are worthy of full attention and presence. There is something delightful about unplugging from technology long enough to know what the weather is like from direct experience, not from weather.com, and to know what phase the moon is in. This is the human experience, a world of feeling and sharing and connection. How many of us feel connected to ourselves and to life while whizzing around from one appointment to the next, constantly plugged into a device of some sort, making brief data-based connections with others, and barely even knowing that we are, in fact, alive in a body in a pulsing, breathing, changing, powerfully alive world? Do we notice? Do we give ourselves any space in which we can notice?
Simplicity calls me more and more. Direct action calls to me. Presence in myself calls me, as does offering presence to others. I want to listen to you, to share my heart with you, to touch your arm, to take a walk or build a fire or make a recipe together. I want to see you, to hear you, to smell the flowers with you, and feel the sunshine on my face while sitting next to you. I want to know where you’re coming from, what you’re pondering, what calls to your heart. I want to call you when I think of you, or maybe send you a card to surprise you. To me, this is simplicity. It is probably considered “old fashioned” to many people who are swept away in the age of technology and speed. But to me, this way of life is what Life is truly about – embodied presence.
Even though we are encouraged by our culture to believe that we are simply heads with bodies attached, I am remembering a poem of Mary Oliver. In this, she reminds me that in spite of our technological advancements and complex knowledge, we are still human animals:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.