Sunday, January 29, 2012

Diminution of the Art of Communication

A sister columnist in the Catholic Times recalls one of the older members present at her lecture and what he said about a subway ride he had taken recently. He noticed that across the aisle from him was a child no more than 3 or 4 years old. She was sitting behind her father, he said, so her movements were not seen by the father.  When making eye contact with the child, he found that without a word being uttered there was a conversation going on between them. She would be playing hide and seek with him, coming out from the 'hide' with a  big smile. There was a long period of non-verbal communication with her, which surprised him;  even grownups, he said, say that his appearance scares them. This child was different. He felt that she could read his heart, and on reflection, he says it was like meeting God.

Hearing this man speak about the incident, the sister was filled with emotion. That child and the old man were doing something that is not common. With all our technical advances, this simple, unsophisticated communication between two people is disappearing.

We rarely look at each other. Riding the subway these days, almost everybody is somewhere else, absorbed in their own world: attending to the digital apparatus they have plugged into their ear and are glued to with their eyes. Everything outside of this virtual world has been shut down. As we are becoming more interested in entering an imaginary world, we are turning ourselves into isolated islands.

The sister asks what has brought us to this harsh reality. There are many answers to the question, she says, but one that affects many is the unlimited competition we face and the resulting insecurity of not being able to succeed in such a competitive culture. But more importantly, we are no longer the masters of our destiny but instruments, means to an end over which we have no control--civilization has become the master. All these gifts that we have received in communication technology should help us relate better with one another instead of separating us from one another.

My happiness, the sister said, depends on the happiness of the other and my love for the other. For the new year, the sister reminds us that  God often comes to us in the guise of the other, and we also are God's path to the other. This should be, she reminds us, our understanding of God's incarnation as one of us.

All those who know God in their lives are conscious that we are both conduits and receivers of God's graces: a message of great consolation and hope.

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