By Judith Cullen
Is it just me? Am I getting old? I accept that with maturity come certain challenges with “data retrieval.” I am starting to wonder if it is more than just the natural evolution from the laser-like certainties of your 20s and 30s to the accumulated wisdom of life at its median and beyond. I have gained so much in 50 plus years in wisdom, patience, and knowledge. Now if I could just remember it all!
Do you ever get the feeling that no one is paying attention? People seem so overcome, overwhelmed, and overexposed in the Digital Age that they cannot fully take in all the information buffeting them 24/7. It seems like daily I send a communication and the reply makes it clear that the person did not entirely read or comprehend the message. Sometimes it is in conversation. Sometimes it happens multiple times. I end up replying and restating (or copying and re-pasting) the same thing again. I start to wonder if I am losing my grip on language. I want to scream, “Pay Attention!”
This is not wholly about getting older. I expect these sorts of still-frustrating communication glitches with my 83 year old Mother. In the natural course of things, some misunderstandings are inevitable. I also think that the near epidemic frequency with which this seems to happen to myself and others these days is a product our times in general.
We are so bombarded with IMs, tweets, posts, plurks and blurbs that it all becomes a mess and, in our rush to try and keep up, we sacrifice comprehension. There are so many people out there “communicating” – just firing their messages into the ether like so many poorly aimed arrows - that it all becomes the intellectual equivalent of packing peanuts. Remember when a 30 second news flash was a rush? These days it is a leisurely stroll when compared to 140 characters, including the spaces.
I do it myself, I admit it. I react or respond to something and then go back and take a second look only to realize that I completely misunderstood. The capacity of the human brain is infinite, taken as a whole. But at any given moment, there’s only so much you can effectively take in.
So I share the invocation I have begun for myself with you: Slow down! Life is not passing you by if you take a moment to absorb it. Be thoughtful. The older you get the more doubt becomes a constant companion, so be generous in giving the benefit there of. Asking clarifying questions is okay. But in the mean time, be sure and give attention to the important stuff and the people that matter in your life. And when the inevitable misunderstanding happens (where two or three are gathered together, someone’s going to not get it the first time around) be gracious.
Maybe we should spend less time “communicating” and more time just talking and listening together.
No one likes to feel like they are howling to the wind. No one likes to feel invisible.
(COFFEE FRIDAYS = my weekly trip to a local coffee shop with my laptop to get a change of scene and refresh my literary batteries with multiple large mochas, no whipped cream.)