I’m embarrassed to note that our last blog was posted shortly after Labor Day. That would be four, count ‘em, four months ago. Since then I have been editing three, count ‘em, three books, which presented deadline after deadline like high hurdles on a never-ending racetrack. I thought I would be done with them by Halloween. Then Thanksgiving. Oh, no – I really don’t like deadlines for Christmas! Wait! The Rose Bowl is on and I’m still editing??!!
I am now happy to report that my review of the last set of galleysi has been completed today, and to celebrate I decided to break the silence at paulandteri.com. I will report at a later date on the aforementioned books when I have news of their impending release.
To add insult to inactivity, we found out that our website had been hacked and infected with malware, which sounds like the name of a distant capital city but could in fact do damage to anyone paying a visit, as might happen in a few distant capital cities I can think of. I am thus grateful to Internet wizards Michael Lee and Ben Grahl for dispatching the malware to wherever such miscreants go, and to Google for doing some sort of sweep that confirmed that the site is safe for all visitors. Whew.
I will note that I took time-outs from medical practice, editing and galley reviewing to enjoy the aforementioned holidays with my family. (I did miss out on Black Friday, and thus avoided getting pepper-sprayed or trampled by frantic shoppers.) One event that we celebrated for the first time in many years was New Year’s Eve. At the Reisser home, the evening of December 31 normally could be the subject of a new holiday song, “The Most Boring Time of the Year.” This is because we have never been party people (except to celebrate family birthdays), but also because in Southern California there are no New Year’s Eve destinations where anything of great interest happens. For example, for Y2K, when spectacular fireworks were blasting off of the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Los Angeles rang in the new millennium by lighting up the Hollywood sign at midnight. Zzzzz.
When the sun goes down on the last day of the year, Teri and I typically watch a DVD, then at 9 p.m. watch the ball drop at Times Square courtesy of CNN, then think about turning in. This year, however, I procured some heavily discounted tickets for a close-up magic show at a nice venue in L.A., made reservations at one of our favorite restaurants that happens to be nearby, and then presented this as a Christmas gift to Teri and our daughter Carrie. Needless to say, we had a great time. One notable ingredient of our great time, however, was a little exercise during dinner called “Put the phone down.”
I have come to the conclusion that mobile devices may lead to the decline and fall of direct communication between human beings. They are powerful and endlessly fascinating. They draw eyes to themselves like moths to the flame, with their irresistible flow of tweets, posts, texts, e-mails, games, apps and even an occasional phone call.ii I happened to receive an upgrade (three generations worth) on my iPhone for Christmas, and have greatly enjoyed the speed and efficiency of its new processor. The thing just begs to be played with. So here the three of us sat at this lovely restaurant, each intermittently compelled to look at the miniature screen sitting next to our water glass, eyes and fingers twitching in anticipation of the next surge of electrons. In a moment of mutual clarity, we realized how ridiculous this was, and simultaneously relegated the little contraptions to places out of sight.
I have observed variations on this scenario too many times in too many restaurants or other public settings. Couples (married or otherwise), parents and kids, kids and kids, sitting together but tapping away at their handheld devices and never locking eyes with the others who are with them. True, these are wonderful tools. But they cannot bond two or more human beings like good old fashioned, attentive, face-to-face communication.
Indeed, few events are as powerful as one person saying to another, with words, expressions, gestures and body language, “You have my undivided attention. I have nowhere to go. I am all ears. I want to hear and know what you are thinking about, and what you are feeling.” For relationships – especially between husbands and wives, but also between parents and children, between friends, even between co-workers – this type of engagement is life itself. For those who haven’t experienced it for a while (or ever), it is like water in the desert.
So for this New Year, I’d like to propose a toast on behalf of the life and health of our relationships: Put the phones down, and let the conversations begin.
©Paul and Teri Reisser, 2011.
Paul Reisser is a family physician who has been in private practice for more than three decades. He has served as the primary author of Focus on the Family’s Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care and Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness. Teri Reisser is a marriage and family therapist and author of A Solitary Sorrow, which deals with the emotional fallout of abortion. Together Paul and Teri have recently written Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married.
i By galleys I am not referring to cooking on a boat, but rather a printed copy of the pages of a book as they will appear when published. This is short for galley proof, a printing term: “a proof, originally one set from type in a galley, taken before the material has been made up into pages and usually printed as a single column of type with wide margins for marking corrections.” Origin: 1885–90.
Galleys have to be reviewed with a fine-toothed comb, because they inevitably contain mistakes of various sorts that have escaped the wary eyeballs of author and copy-editors alike
ii I especially like the ring tone that sounds like a really loud old-fashioned table phone. It always manages to erupt during a quiet moment of a movie or perhaps during prayer time at church, and inevitably arises from a phone buried deep in someone’s purse, in a hidden recess where it cannot be turned off. Priceless.