January 6, 2012

Last Sunday, there was a terrific piece in the NYT that was life affirming to me. It was called “The Joy of Quiet,” by Pico Iyer.  It’s about unplugging; it’s about  looking around, being mindful and appreciative in the moment about everything.

Not too long ago, I had a meal with a group of people in a magnificent little NYC bistro.  I noticed that a couple of those seated pulled out phones every couple of minutes.  They would begin to text.  I asked one of them to tell me what he was texting.  It turned out that he was “tweeting” about the meal and some of the things that we were talking about during our meal.  One of us had mentioned that a popular chain of organic bakeries (on almost every corner in NYC), was serving what they said was organic whatever and sometimes it wasn’t.  How did that person know, I asked; because, as it turned out, they worked there and they were part of the kitchen conversation. Oh, I said, disappointed, I liked the bakery and wanted to continue to get “organic” food there. At the end of the table someone else was tweeting about books, things said at dinner reminded him of things he wanted to pass on before he forgot.  I sighed heavily and said, do any of us sit down to a meal without our phones, without TV, without the newspaper, and just talk and eat?  For almost a moment, the table went quiet.  And then, they ignored me.  But it’s a good question, and one that deserves exploration during this new year of ours.  If every moment is important, and sure should be, than our meals are a time to re-engage, to wrap our forks and our hearts around food and conversation and community. We pick the people we want to dine with, and in this fast paced world in which we live, how many times a month do we get their full undivided attention?  So when we have, it’s such a shame not to fully appreciate every aspect of it.  And turning off our electronics shows both good manners and a kind of power.