My first time talking to Eric was not through a microphone, as it always is now; it was after Mass, in a church. No sooner than our friendship started to grow in person, with all the flesh and blood realness that has defined relationships for millennia, Eric and his family moved out of state and it became necessary for the relationship to take on a digital life, or else fade away completely. I have had mixed feelings about that, and starting this podcast really drove me to explore them a little more deeply. Here is what I found.
My feelings are mixed, because I have always felt that digital contact with people is inferior to being in the same room with them. I assume I am not alone in that feeling. Yet, through Skype and phone conversations I realized something obvious. I prefer this inferior, digital contact to no contact at all. Of course, that has always been apparent when communicating with my sister who lives 1,000 miles away, or countless other relatives from whom distance separates me. The difference here, with Eric and the podcast, is that this is the first time I am attempting to become a producer of digital content. I’m no longer just using the technological monster. I’m feeding it!
Once I contemplated the consequences of feeding the monster, however, it occurred to me that maybe it’s not the monster I thought it was, but rather the healing side of a double-edged sword. Technology is, after all, what allowed everyone to become so separated in the first place. With cars, highways, planes and trains, we always think that the speed with which these inventions take us away is the same speed that will bring us back. Then, we get busy, and getting back never seems to happen as often as we would like.
Maybe this modern need for digital contact is really nothing more than what hearts look like that are trying to find their way back. Back to the kitchen table where you can smell the other person’s coffee while you talk with each other. Back to the living room, where the vibrations of loud laughter can be felt. Back to the campfire where everyone around it feels the same heat at the same moment.
Without this digital world, I would never have known that John exists. We podcast together, but, as of this writing, have never met in person. Our friendship exists only through Skype and email. I enjoy knowing him and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Is it inferior to being in the same place? Yes.
However, we were all born into this age of separation and distance, and for now, we’re going to make the best of it in the ways that we can. That is why we are reaching out to each other and to all of you in this way. The community we build here might not be as great as one in which we could be physically present to each other, but that does not mean it can’t be great. If all goes well, this spirit will spill over into every listener’s local life.
This podcast is a way to connect all of us who cannot be together otherwise. It is not a replacement for those of us who can. So, as I enjoy the microphones, and getting to know new people through them, I remember that it all started with one person talking to another after Mass, and that I only wander in the electronic wilderness, because, these days, it may be the surest way home.