4 U 2 NO

I might have titled this article, For You to Know, or The Long and Short of It. But, as you’ll soon know, the title I’ve chosen is more appropriate for the theme of the article. I assure you that it’s not intended to offend anyone, but rather to highlight a part of life that most young people are missing.

In my early teens and twenties, I had the good fortune to gather two or three lifetime friends. There were differences in gender and characteristics, but we had a fundamental lifestyle in common: We thoroughly communicated with each other.

I’ll always remember the joy we shared, sometimes as a group, other times one-on-one. We were busy with our school homework, our jobs, and other obligations but we always found time to talk.

I fondly remember Vincent. When we were in our twenties, Vincent lived about a mile away from me. He, my sister, and I would discuss religion, politics, and especially the performing arts for hours. We also discussed our family relationships. Vincent, my sister, and I were cousins. But that chance of birth soon developed into a lifetime friendship that lasted until each of those two companions died within the last decade.

The venues for talk varied. I remember those languid summer days when we spoke in my grandfather’s garden under the shade of a thick grapevine supported by a wooden structure. During those discussions we picked fruit from his trees. My favorites were succulent peaches and white figs, dripping with maturity. Many of our gatherings took place in my home. They would last for hours. Then, at about midnight, I’d ‘walk’ Vincent home, then he’d walk me back to my home, and then I’d walk him back to his home, and so on until I walked back home alone. This pattern began and continued when my sister could not join us in our wee-hour walks because of a polio handicap.

What I’ve described is the value of extensive communication. More importantly, it is an example of a tiny fraction of a lifestyle that brought us the life-sustaining values of understanding and the joy of intimate communication. E-mails and Text Messages cannot do that. Hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook are an electronic illusion. “Mailbox Full” means that one’s life is cluttered by an excessive pile of meaningless communications. Ironically, the surfeit of instant contacts curtails the very purpose it is purported to assist. At the personal level, it severely diminishes the feelings that only face-to-face contact can provide.

I realize and applaud the inestimable value of speed and brevity that has been made possible by electronic communications. But the excessive use of that technology, at the very least, cuts us off from meaningful relationships; at it’s worst it betrays a lack of commitment—it’s much easier to maintain a long-distance relationship than it is to develop a lifetime friendship.

Of course, old habits die hard. Note that for my title I couldn’t resist a font smaller than the others for the word ‘to.’ I was compelled to maintain my penchant for parallel structure. Perhaps that’s a tad too much of a concession to the demands of precise communication.

But if you are chained to your electronic messengers, I suggest you consider grapevines, peaches, and figs.

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