The experience of being human is an adventure, no matter where you happen to be in the world. Cultures place different values on the experience, but there are certain values that remain the same, no matter where you are.
Family. Friends. Belief in a higher power.
In my travels this year, I have noticed one difference. How people use their cell phones.
A cell phone is a wonderful invention that connects, informs and directs, all from the palm of your hand. With the swipe of a finger, you can learn the history of anything or discover the answer to the most obscure question.
But this tool can also isolate and separate people.
When I was in Hong Kong and Sydney this year, I noticed that most people used their phones as a shield against the world. It was a sign that clearly said, “Don’t bother me.”
This is not a comment on either city, just an observation.
In Paris, however, it is a different story. The Parisians may come across as rude or indifferent to tourists, but when they are with friends, they are intense, engaged and attentive.
Yesterday, for example, we had lunch at a sidewalk cafe. To our right was a group of three men who were engaged in a spirit discussion. Different voices made emphatic points, to which the others responded. All of this communicated over food.
To our left were two women, also engaged in a deep conversation. Each looked into the other’s eyes, listening attentively.
No one had their cell phone out. It was not in sight and was never used during either of these conversations.
I didn’t think much about this until we took a stroll last evening along the Seine. Notre Dame rose in the sunset as small groups of people enjoyed the cooler air. Food and wine were part of every gathering…and not a cell phone in sight.
We are humans, wired to be connected to each other. Why don’t we pledge to leave our phones out of sight and intend to listen. When we connect to others, we also connect more deeply to ourselves.
Viva la humans!