The lost art of talking

Heather played a spoken word YouTube piece for me called "Look Up" yesterday afternoon when she got home from her day of teaching.  It is disturbing (at least I found it so) about the social ills of social media.  It said everything that I've been thinking, sitting in airport waiting rooms, standing in the line-up at Starbucks, or even observing small groups of friends with the noses buried in their devices.

What is happening with the lost art of talking?  At times, I fear the generation of kids we're raising won't know the beauty of a chat that never wants to end, or the discordant yell from a parent saying "I need to use the phone!" (heard many times in the 80's when we would be immersed in long conversations with our friends on the one phone that somehow served the whole family).

Then I see both of our sons when they DO engage with people and I think for a brief moment that my fears are unfounded.  They both light up, happy to be cleaved from their devices and talking with actual people, running around the yard laughing, making honest to goodness human connections.  Where my generation may have seemed rather ho hum about a friend dropping by or calling on the phone, both Dylan and Ben come alive when they get to be truly social.

I wrote a blog a few months ago about the concept of a Walk 'n' Talk, a practice employed by Steve Jobs when he needed to work out problems or brainstorm ideas.  Last weekend, I tried it for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Matt and I walked over 4 kilometres through our downtown neighbourhood, though the time and the distance flew by as we jumped from one invigorating topic to the next.  We did almost 5 kilometres up in his neck of the woods yesterday, again enjoying the conversation time, absolutely uninterrupted by technology or social media.

My recent travels were made more interesting and memorable as I fell into elongated talks with strangers, one from New York City and the other from Hanna, Alberta.  The time - which usually seems to slow down on those flights - flew by and in a blink of an eye, three hours had passed.

I'm thinking of two driving trips I've made to Conklin, one on my own and one with an old friend who I hadn't seen in a long time.  They were two fundamentally different journeys.  Energized by a wonderful conversation, the one trip felt extraordinary, almost a blur; the other was rather sleepy and serene.

While the "Look Up" video was hard to watch, it speaks the truth, in a way that we should all pay attention to.  Put down your iPhone, shut off the power for your iPad, leave your laptop closed, raise your eyes and make contact with the stranger, colleague or spouse sitting near you and say "Hello!"  What follows might just surprise you.


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