Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pondering the Gift of “Nothing to Do”

I read aloud passages to my oldest son from the book I've purchased my son-in-law for Christmas – The End of Absence. The author, Michael Harris, suggests that we who are the last generation to experience pre-Internet life need to “reclaim what we've lost in a world of constant connection.”  He writes:
I think that within the mess of changes we’re experiencing, there’s a single difference that we feel most keenly; and it’s also a difference that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence – the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished.
I’m enjoying the book and sorry to have to wrap it at last but we are dashing out the door for our second big holiday dinner and there’ll be no time tomorrow before the rest of the family arrives (including my son-in-law) for the third dinner. We drive to Courtenay, a beautiful sunny mild afternoon and are welcomed by the houseful of guests – my father and step-mother, two of my step-sisters and five of their children ranging in ages from 12 to 17. We laugh, talk, tell stories and eat much more than we should.

On the drive home, David remarked on something that didn't even register with me at the time – the young people only engaged minimally with each other or us. It exemplified, he said, the premise of The End of Absence. David, not so far away from being one of the kids, noticed that the young people all had phones out, one was plugged in completely, using ear-buds, the youngest played an online game, the girls chatted in a desultory way and engaged with the “other” in their phones. No one went out to play darts, he said. They didn't bundle up to play tag or pull out a board game or put on a skit. In fact, they didn't do anything they might not have done any other day of the week. There was nothing special about the evening, in fact. They weren't bored. But the boredom of a long evening doing “nothing” didn't drive them to invent new games and challenges, to connect or re-connect with siblings and cousins. They didn't interrupt the adult conversations with questions about what to do or badger us into the inter-generational play that is always the first thing we all remember about past years.

It made me think. In eliminating “nothing to do,” have we lost the best part of being together?

No comments:

Post a Comment