encryption for a new society

April 22nd, 2012

friend: no one you know
community: no place you live
connect: disconnect
interact: isolate
engage: distract
like: click
click: touch
touch: screen
screen: reality
stream: data
streaming: live data
live: not living
comment: type
chat: read
follow: ignore
social: alone

Last week my landline rang. You have to be of a certain age to even have a landline. I almost never pick it up. But I saw the name on ID. It was a friend—someone I’ve seen in my small town every week for 15 years. We have a sentimental history but don’t talk much anymore. Seeing her name I thought the worst.

That’s how it is these days. The phone rings and you think the worst.

She was calling to ask me to have lunch with her. For no reason. Just lunch. An hour sitting face-to-face, chatting. The whole event was such a shock that it made me realize how far we’ve drifted from what words used to mean: words like friend, face, and chat.

We have a new society, and it has corrupted the vocabulary of the old.  A society that isn’t social, with a language that is completely silent. I write this here so that one day the archeologists will be able to decode the encryption, and imagine what it used to mean to be alive.

This is why I will never stop inviting you to meet me face-to-face, and why one day you will.

The Art of Non-Parenting, Central School, Belmont, CA May 31.

Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat, Los Angeles, June 10.


  1. One day I will.

    Comment by Roos — April 22, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

  2. oh this made me smile out loud…

    Comment by tekeal — April 23, 2012 @ 1:41 am

  3. So true; this is the newspeak that Orwell predicted sixty years ago in “1984”.

    Comment by Michael — April 23, 2012 @ 3:04 am

  4. I will welcome that day.

    Here’s to living life without a digital intermediary, head up, senses open, with a smile and a greeting: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

    Comment by Laura — April 23, 2012 @ 5:52 am

  5. I’ve been catching up on real conversations with actual, real-live friends in person and on the phone these past few days. Voices and faces are good, good medicine.

    Comment by Jena — April 23, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  6. excellent, thank you

    Comment by Colleen — April 23, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  7. Have been thinking about this very thing all day — since reading Sherry Turkle’s provocative piece in yesterday’s NYT. Makes me want to see you, face to face, again. Meanwhile, I’m trying to remember to talk to the people who are in the room with me.


    Comment by Katrina Kenison — April 23, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  8. Yes,one day I will. too. Thank you for your ever kind and tender invitation.

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — April 24, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  9. Even though I am geographically far,one day I will, I can sense that!!
    Thank you for your writing!

    Comment by florencia — April 25, 2012 @ 5:12 am

  10. Meeting you face to face and then sitting next to you in meditation was one of the sweetest days of my life . . . and I will do so again. You continue to inspire me both as friend and teacher.

    Comment by E. J. Gore — April 25, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  11. I miss having real life face to face friends to talk to. It seems most people only socialize within very strict parameters and I guess I don’t fit into those. Online seems black and white empty one sided egotistical solo invisible smokey ethereal gone. And one day I do hope to see you — face to face. 🙂 xoD

    Comment by denise — April 26, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

  12. Smiling and preparing to phone a friend! Thanks Karen…

    Comment by Bobbi — May 4, 2012 @ 7:58 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month