Last week, I had an opportunity to speak on the telephone with one of my favorite work consultants. He’s a man of about my father’s age, specializing in one aspect of the work I do. For some unknown reason, I haven’t needed his expertise in the last year; we’ve lost touch.
After covering our shared business, we talked about books. He is a prolific reader and likes historical fiction and non-fiction. We also talked about politics and baseball. Then he asked how life in Maine was treating me. Because he’s a good conversationalist, he’s interested in other people and he remembers well our past conversations.
It was a thoughtful, peaceful thirty minutes.
As I hung up the phone, I paused to reflect on what elements had made the time so pleasant and so rewarding. Was it the brief suspension of the “insistent immediate” and deciding to “take time” to have a conversation? Was it that we spoke in complete sentences instead of telegraphic bursts of texted words and abbreviations?
I was reminded of a blog post my brother wrote a week ago, about the book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkel.
My brother is a person much like my favorite work consultant. I enjoy having a conversation with him, face to face. I almost never text my brother and when I do, I feel guilty. We use e-mail a lot, exchanging long, thoughtful letter-like notes. Sometimes, when I’m sitting in the kitchen, working at my “machine,” I turn around and look out over the river to Durham on the other side. It’s comforting to know my brother is there and we could, hypothetically, visit each other often. We could converse at the speed of the human spirit instead of this strange and ever-faster racing chatter.
Maybe writers are retrogrades like that, unsatisfied to confine thoughts to 240 Twitter characters or “liking” each other’s posts on social media.
I shouldn’t lament that nasty old technology too much. In spite of it, it was a very good week for the art of conversation here at the old house on the hill. In addition to my phone call, I had a visit from Karen, a writer friend of mine. She stopped over and we drank coffee and talked for an hour. Then, on Saturday, I had a coffee drop-in at Shelley’s house. Another hour of warm conversation, sprinkled with stories. It was encouraging. What is the alternative? The artifice that is technology, that panacea for all that is wrong with the world continues to seep into every aspect of our lives, crushing our gentle humanity with its insistence that life must move at the speed of satellites beams.
I could go on. I know, I know…the irony is that my lament is written on a computer and it’s distributed to my tiny audience through the magic of the internet. What am I complaining about? It’s a new month. Time marches on at the steady pace of a fine Swiss watch, regardless of our attempts to speed, bend, or skew it.
That’s it, the steady march of time. That’s the pace I want, not this arbitrary herky-jerky of the “hurry up and wait” world.