The Conversation

When I was a child, I spoke in screams and whimpers — I could sure make a scene;
Later, I spoke in desires, and drew shapes – first oddball, then musical.
Then I learned Russian, though I still preferred to confide almost exclusively to my teddy bear, and speaking bully to just about anyone else. Moscow winters were tough, and practicing the violin seemed like a curse.

For a while, I thought and spoke in Russian daily; when we moved to New York, I learned English. Eventually, I began to speak + think in English, my teddy bear caught up quickly.

These days, I feel increasingly alienated from any language, aside from “Email”, a language in which I communicate exceptionally well. I know the styles like the palm of my hand. There’s formal, semi-formal, casual, hipster, and various other nuanced shades meant to elicit a response. There are openings, closings, and ways to emphasize content. There’s also SMS/Text, the diminutive cousin.

It’s very comforting. I have little problem rattling off 100+ emails a day on many projects, but give me a phone-call, and momentarily a mental timer starts to beat, a sign rapidly blinking “you’re not multitasking!!”. I check the time, scan a magazine, open another tab, window, politely steering the conversation to fizzle out, so that we can confirm everything by email. I rarely take phone-calls when I’m at home, but always when I’m on the run.

There is something about email, and facebook, that has made (my) life much easier to manage. But it has also compartmentalized and eroded relationships to such a degree that having a regular conversation doesn’t appear necessary. For example —

“How are you?”
“Check my Facebook status”

“Where did you go on honeymoon?”
“Check my blog, and fotki site for pictures”

“Tell me a little about your band”
“Sure! we’re really fun, and for videos and reviews, see my website..”

“Let me tell you how to get to my house from the train station”
“No need, I’ve got GPS and Google Maps directions”

“I’ve just had this incredible meal at X”
“I’ve just read several reviews of it on Yelp/Menupages/Citysearch, and they’re all negative”
..and so forth.

Pretty much the only conversation-piece is something which cannot, by sheer complexity or unwieldy nature, be posted online, or an idea that is too improvised to hold its structure in anything but a live in-person performance.

And yet, something’s missing from all of this omnivorousness. The people who most often interest me are not ones who’re pouring out buckets of content weekly, but those who — maybe, possibly — make three or four splashes a year. They don’t really use facebook, and can barely if ever get back to an email. They’re too busy – reading, writing, catching a 6pm dinner with friends, and contending with larger forms. Bless ’em.

10 years ago, email used to be for procrastination; now, it’s vital to getting work done. When someone is “catching up on some email”, that’s productive — but returning phonecalls, seeing friends? Time consuming.

I wish I could quit – quit using all of these new resources, and just talk to people in a friendly, unhurried, non-neurotic manner. But with no barriers on my working hours, with so much going on in the world (in the news and otherwise), with having to manage everything + follow up, the optimistic amount of things I try to accomplish daily… the lure of efficiency is too hard to resist.

Let’s hope that, at least, I can still devote ample energy to music.

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