If my Wishing Wand were freshly loaded with Stardust, and stood poised over an expectant humanity, eager for salvation, my one magic spell would doubtless be that we each and all get to know each other more personally, more individually. People’s eyes might then magically open. We’d stop perceiving each other as red-staters or blue, as neighbors or immigrants, customers or coworkers, loosers or powerful people it behooves me to cozy up to. Instead of slicing & dicing our fellows up into pre-labeled tribes, we’d begin delightfully exploring Judy, Tom, Randy, Jacque, Sophia, and Ivan – each unique individuals.
We’d start tearing our eyes away from our two-dimensional screens, blink into God’s honest sunlight, and launch into the far more satisfying process of learning all the little fascinating facets that lie behind Hari’s ready smile – and the real reason another old acquaintance’s parents named her Sequoia. The other night I had the pleasure of witnessing this blossoming when a Zoom group that I attend weekly gathered for a face-to-face Holiday Party. The sheer joy was absolutely palpable. Laughter rang and the stilted curtain of teleconferencing formality drew back as we each shared the broader panorama of our own true selves.
But ‘tis far too easy to fix the blame for our isolation on technology. The fault of our interpersonal poverty lies more in our selves, than our devices. Long before smartphones, even before desktop computers, our society had begun drifting into impersonality, and what I call the “shark-fin-soup” method of making relationships. Joe repairs my car. Sandra is the firm’s tech wizard, Bruce is that idiot who votes for the wrong party. So much for Joe, Sandra, and Bruce. They’ve been boxed into their single-slot asset or characteristic. You don’t need me to preach the stupidity of slicing off just the fin and tossing the entire rest of this individual back into the sea of our disinterest. You already know the wastefulness of treating your fellows as mere functions.
And actually, you don’t even require my Wishing Wand to bootstrap yourself out of this self-inflicted loneliness. Have you thrown a good old-fashioned party for the neighbors lately? Taken your cleaning woman shopping? Invited one or two workday cronies for a wine tasting or bike ride? Or have you paused in your vitally frantic schedule to learn a little about the family of the person who delivers your mail? There wanders among us legions of bizarre, captivating, multi-faceted souls whose wealth will open to you with a little friendly conversation. Who knows, that s.o.b. in accounting might just be the tennis partner you’ve been searching for.
May you bounce merrily into 2023, – Bart Jackson