In the First Person

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.