I was doing something I don’t do enough of last week: having a conversation–a face-to-face exchange of words and thoughts with another person.
I’ve written a post or two about this in Previous Addresses. And I should be clear that I talk to people all the time. I have a dozen real conversations a week, if not more. But those are usually focused on a person’s soul care, related to the church I serve, or about all things related to the boy taking up residence in my house as of last March. Those are, indeed, conversations. Last week’s talk was different.
We sat across from each other, at a table. The talk was post-dinner and went into the late night. At one point it came to me that this activity, this talking and listening, was unique. Not that I didn’t talk to this person regularly. Dr. Joseph is a mentor, friend, and spiritual parent. So we do talk regularly. Though she lives in another city, we keep in touch.
That said, the event of talking in person with her was uncharacteristic. But I thought about how easy and difficult it was to do this. I thought about how most of my conversations are with Dawn or with a colleague. I thought about how long it had been since me and Dr. Joseph had spoken in person, unencumbered by a task or an important thing-to-do. Last week, talking and hearing were the things to do.
Sometimes I feel caught between generations. I’m not old enough to exactly grieve the coming of technology and how it helps us to communicate even if communication is largely impersonal since computers and things with screens aren’t persons. And I’m not young enough to not know that cell phones started with machines as big as small lamps or in fluffy tote bags, attached to thick cords like the ones coming out of my surge protector.
I remember conversations. I know how to have them about things that matter without feeling weird. I know how to sustain a chat, to go deeper than a hundred something characters. I once drove six hours to have a face-to-face conversation, and when it ended two hours later, I got back in the car and drove home. I know that meeting a person’s eyes and tracking their thoughts, even when they move from A to Z, is a gift. Trust me, I’m no extrovert. I like my dark rooms where silence is the loudest speaker. But sometimes I miss words being given, generously shared, by friends about what really matters.