From the long hallway that is the memory of things I’ve read, I seem to recall some story in which one of the characters was constantly receiving articles clipped from newspapers. I think the sender was the character’s mother, but could be wrong about that.1
In the time of the novel this is nothing out of the ordinary.
But yesterday it most certainly was out of the ordinary.
I don’t get much mail at the library and most of it is flyers for various university goings-on. So a fully eight-and-a-half-by-eleven inch envelope with my name handwritten in ink across the front was about as strange as seeing Lady Gaga in sweatpants.2
The handwriting looked familiar but I didn’t think much of it. Opening the envelope,3 I found a note and a half-page of newspaper. The note was from the professor of the class I took last semester.
Hi Bo. I saw this article on Sunday and thought you might like to read it, if you haven’t already.
Back up. Did you see that?
Yep. She was sitting at home on a non-work day, relaxing and reading the Sunday Times, maybe with coffee or tea. She came across this article4 and thought enough of it to clip it from the paper with the intent of sending it my way. At some point she brought it to work. She wrote a note. She put it all in an envelope. She wrote my name on the front and sealed. She dropped it in campus mail.
Think about that for a minute. Think about everything that went into it. The human interactions: between her and the paper, between me and the paper, and between her and me.
This is far more touching than cut-and-paste.
Far more touching than email.
Far more touching than a computer screen.
Because she could have done it. I’m sure the article is available online5 and she could have very easily just looked it up and done the copy-and-paste-and-email thing. Probably would have taken her far less time.
That’s the problem. Right there. The sacrifice of real, analog human interaction for the illusion of free time. After all, if I only spend 30 seconds on you, that’s more time for me, right? Maybe it’s not free time. Maybe it’s the origin of that horrible phrase: Me time.
I get that today’s world has us constantly crunched for time. But the only reason the world is pressing us for time is because it’s giving us so much shit to pay attention to.6
I’m not proselytizing here; I’m every bit as guilty about this as everyone else. Probably more so than some. Some of the shit out there is enormously entertaining. Some of it’s even interesting. Even enlightening.
But I fear we sacrifice human touch way too much.
Send someone an article. Print out a picture of your kid and mail it to his or her grandparents. Write someone a letter. Have a conversation with your brother. Your sister. Call everyone you would normally text. Go somewhere with a friend and leave your phones off.
Technology isn’t a bad thing. But be human while you still are.
- I also think the character lived in an apartment in or near Chicago. This fact leads me to believe it’s the main character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle or one of the characters in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. But it really could be anything.
- or hearing Taylor Swift sing a song about how she thinks the guy should totally keep dating the girl he’s with and how she completely supports that decision.
- Maybe the 6th time I’ve used the letter opener that came with the desk. If only the phone could fall into such disuse…
- W/r/t David Foster Wallace.
- Yep. Right here.
- And we all know damn well that 90% of it is shit.