Sunday in the Park
December 9, 2011
I have heard the whisperings. Feelings of embarrassment about The Wish. Conspiratorial conversations in lowered voices with sideways glances. Afraid to upset the gods of progress. And inventiveness. But still, wishing for a thing so out of reach and nostalgic that it seems both selfish and backward to desire a thing so, well, yesterday.
But the rumblings continue, among close friends and casual colleagues. And while we live in an age full of remarkable discoveries and advancements in health care and planetary unveilings, there is a murmur of discontent. The glut of so much stuff, information, access, connectedness, has resulted in the beginnings of some dysphoria. What we want, it turns out, is to not be constantly connected, busied, needed, accessible, during so many hours of all days.
What we want is some peace.
But certainly in wherever we define as our little corner of the world. We want to Slow Down, to Drop Out, to Tune In. We want watercolored days. Lazy days. Days when we actually had moments of boredom. When we considered things worth considering. Maybe not all things considered, but some things. When we didn’t feed our hunger to just "check in." Online. To just not miss …what? … something.
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What we want is to reconnect with meaningful humans in a meaningful way in real time. Unhurried.
And if we are so advanced, so very advanced, that we can see humans a full time-zone away in real time and talk with them face to face with a screen on a lap, well then, can’t we perhaps figure out a way to stop, or at least suspend, time.
The jet pack that was a promise that, it seems, should have been kept from the Jetson era of futuristic inventions. The ability to just whoosh rise above it all and self-propel to another part of town or another state.
We didn’t really see another state of mind coming. A state of mind that reveals attention deficits in us all. A focus so short we turn away from loved ones or interesting conversations or even live performances to check on a tiny handheld device that sets off a glow and reveals our disinterest, lack of focus, state of anxiety.
We have, as a people, become increasingly, measurably rude. There are no more "Dear Abby" columns in regular papers on a regular basis that tell us the new rules for bad manners. We just know everything moves so fast and we wish, really wish, we could get off the moving sidewalk long enough to walk at a leisurely pace. And some of us, of an age, wonder: Did we squander that time that we thought would be now, when it happened then?
A friend of mine, a very hip, modern woman with her own successful business and happily married, confessed to me just yesterday that she wished for a time when roles were more defined. When taking care of hearth and home was enough. And we laughed about the very idea of spending days on end preparing one’s home for the holidays. Of baking cookies and entertaining family and friends with thoughtful meals lovingly prepared, and tables handsomely appointed. We recall when we did such things. When we polished silver and listened to carols and had pots bubbling on the stove with vanilla and cinnamon and smells rich enough to compete with the fresh evergreens. Days spent wrapping gifts and finding clever surprises to pop out of stockings.
But it wasn’t about the stuff; it was about the time. Puzzles on tables that came together piece by piece over the course of the holiday. Naps in front of fires with hardback books splayed out on resting chests. Long walks bundled up with kids and dogs and stopping to visit with others out doing the same.
It seems impossible to consider such leisure these overly connected days. To still the chatter of devices. To unplug enough to enjoy. But that seems to be The Wish. To find the time, to find the strength, to disconnect. Understanding our primal need to recharge in a non-electric fashion. To satisfy the hunger of relationships that are fueled by slow-burning fires, of unhurried conversations that linger over linens lovingly laid out and ironed, yes ironed, with sharp corners.
It isn’t a way we can return to, because that place doesn’t exist anymore. Not in any extended meaningful way. It passed us by or we passed it by. But the desire to slow down long enough to quiet the chatter seems to be the The Wish I hear whispered with a growing buzz. Peace for oneself is the cornerstone of peace among others. Sharing the peace isn’t just an exercise that happens in a church service. Sharing the peace isn’t exclusively religious. Sharing the peace begins with feeling the peace, being the peace, embracing the peace. And if that can’t be every day, if we have to carve out those moments and encase them in a suspended snow globe of time, then maybe we can start with simply a peaceful Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.