From Rev. Peter E Bauer
Our lives make imprints. I have a good friend that I meet with every couple of weeks for coffee. We have known each other a long time. It’s wonderful to be together to discuss our work, our mutual intellectual interests and family. Right now, of course, with the ongoing quarantine, there are no opportunities to meet. Instead there is the occasional E-Mail or telephone call, but it is not the same as seeing the person in real time.
As I have noted before, more and more of our time is being devoted to digital space. We do our work online, maybe go to church online, meet with chat groups online, or go to a happy hour online. Many of us are noticing different interiors of rooms. Maybe we are getting some ideas for home decorating or renovating by observing the living spaces of others. Then there is the altered perception of having a conversation digitally with people in unexpected places. I have had people talk to me from their cars, their bathroom, sitting against a headboard talking to me while sitting up in their bed. Depending upon the conversation and the depth of material , the experience can feel disconcerting. You can feel like a voyeur, that somehow you are not in the right place, that this may not be what you need to see.
Where is the comfort of having someone else in the same room sharing time with you ? The pleasure of another’s company can get obliterated in the pursuit of making as many digital contacts as possible. All of the Emojis that one can use will not necessary replace the connection of a handshake or the warmth of a smile in real time. This pandemic has forced people to get very creative. New opportunities for contact over the internet are emerging all of the time. Churches are also experimenting with new offerings including the digital coffee, tea and conversation hour.
Former Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright has noted in her book: “Hell And Other Destinations: “ We all, in our own way, search for fulfillment, happiness, or a general sense of well-being. Many-by far the majority-are too busy coping with life’s complications to allocate to this quest more than a series of passing thoughts; We measure our serenity in coffee spoons. Perhaps we hope to find time in the future to sit on a mountaintop or recline beneath a banyan tree and figure everything out. “ ( P. 318 )
For now, I will settle for being able again to see people, those I love , friends and family who are important to me, in person and in real time. It’s important to be in the room and know it again as if t were the first time.
May it be so.