For the past 100 years in early Autumn, the Eastern States Exposition puts on a show affectionately known as, The Big E. For about 2 weeks, visitors can lose themselves in entertainment, food & drink; wander the Midway complete with all things that say “carnival;” explore hundreds of exhibits and competitions that focus on the demanding work in farming, the raising & caring for livestock & poultry and more, much more. The Big E is one of the country’s largest fairs. I enjoy it for many reasons, but my fascination goes to the hundreds of food vendors on the grounds, especially when their booths light up the night.
During a recent trip to Old Sturbridge Village, I came upon this roped-off exhibit of a beautiful, portable, writing desk with written pages fanned across its top. I imagined how the owner and writer of those materials may have looked like. This gentleman seemed to fit the bill.
I can appreciate the time and effort it takes to hand-write many things. I’m at odds with my peers, being one who cherishes writing [letters, journaling, e.g.] with a fountain pen no less. It does require your attention. The efficiency of computers is a boon to creating content, from tweets to long essays and dissertations. The use of all types of computers is standard for our developed societies.
But why do we need to process things so quickly? It’s a rhetorical question, certainly, but not without practical considerations. We marvel at how fast technology processes both the simple and the very complex. However, you lose [at least for me] that joie de vivre of the moment. Being attentive in the moment is quite different from being momentarily attentive.
And I see too much of this momentary attentiveness in many. How so? In a restaurant, you can see some couples more attentive to their smart phones than each other. In parks, in museums, in the lobbies of theatres, offices and yes, even in our cars, the siren of that handheld is overwhelming. The device in our hand responds quickly, in “real” time, then with a thumb stroke, we’re onto another screen for something else.
For me though, I feel better connected when I’m engaged with just about any process that requires a bit more attention, time and effort. Yes, I admit an app can make things easier and interesting. But for me, the process of being engaged and attentive to tasks and to processing information just isn’t the same when a person is with me.
Summer vacation is a staple for one’s own sense of stability. In most cases, one or two days I’m doing work—either by choice or a directive from someone who signs the checks—even though it’s work I try to avoid from usurping vacation days. At the C-level of management, there’s always a part of your vacation that is, indeed, a “working vacation.”
Anyway, I make the effort to still my mind and settle the angst of all that is life. It’s not always related to work as there are things in life that can be much more demanding of time, energy and other resources.
I posted an article on my LinkedIn page, “A Short Guide to Finding Quiet,” and this post is related to that article. However, what I’m sharing here is far more personal. There are places that are quiet and then there are really quiet places, the kind you savor and want to bottle for another day.
Living in New England means you’re never far from the ocean. I like that. The sea air has therapeutic properties, but when coupled with with the kind of quiet that only Nature can produce, well, then the properties take on added qualities, qualities that make you breathe deeper, think slower if not kinder and move about in less harried fashion.
The sounds of a breeze cutting across tall sea grass, the distant cry of a gull, the “wooshing” sound of water rolling onto the beach, the rthymic slapping of a wake against the side of a boat. All are folded into “sea air.”
If your summer vacation isn’t near the ocean, then I’m sure there are quiet places that are unique to wherever you’re headed. You can make them your own too.
Hancock Shaker Village recently held the first of 4 dinners involving noted thinkers and authors. The Food for Thought program involves a monthly dinner May thru August, and invites folks to “feed your mind, body and soul…with an illuminating author.” The first dinner quickly sold out as 76 signed on to chat and dine with former Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick. Within an ambiance shaped by the Shakers [who established this Village in the 1700s] the evening proved intimate, friendly, and grounded. In light of our current political climate, I suppose anything could’ve happened regarding a discussion of Mr. Patrick’s life politique; politics has been a lightning rod of recent times, as we all know, attracting more negativity to the point of consternation and frustration.
That wasn’t the case here. Instead, I was reminded of the importance, indeed the significance, of seeing things in person and to hear experiences in the first person. We are so immersed, so much more involved with our digital devices that I think we’ve lost touch on how to converse with verve, clarity, honesty, expression, sensitivity, empathy, integrity, patience, consideration, reciprocity and more. It’s a sad state of affairs and while this is a gross generalization, therein lies a truism in my previous sentence: many of us spend too much precious time eyeball-to-eyeball, hand-to-hand with a keyboard, a touch screen and/or ear buds.
In this setting, we conversed with Mr. Patrick and listened to what he had to say. He was genuine and unpretentious in his greetings with old friends and in acknowledging the company of new faces. In a space that consisted of movers and shakers and critical thinkers from the Berkshires and beyond, it would’ve been all too easy to spot someone posturing. No, we all possessed a quality common to each in that room regardless of social or professional standing. We were–and still are–sentient beings, vessels filled with doubts about freedom of speech, decorum, political bipartisanship, populism, nationalism, etcetera ad nauseum.
Yes, having access to commentary and perspective through YouTube, Vimeo, Aeon, TED Talks and others is timely, convenient and important, but I, personally, feel that being there, of being part of the gathering, is a different experience from those encountered online. When you’re surrounded by the event, you are indeed, part of the event. Many things become visceral and palpable, vulnerable and accessible, sensuous and profound. And while many communications can be paused or saved or added-to-my-view list, I’m reminded that with such gatherings, Life has no pause or rewind buttons. You are in the moment, beguiling a terrific gathering albeit brief.
I think we short-change ourselves more than we’d like to admit to, given our penchant for social media, texting, instagram and so forth. The convenience and immediacy of digital communications is undeniable. We expect such things. Yet as great as communications can be, nothing can replace being there, on location, in person, surrounded by a tangible reality that can touch all our senses.
Great photography, video, journalism and storytelling can provide part of the experience, but what they can’t deliver is the visceral qualities that encompasses the milieu of the location.