Looking directly at a person – face-to-face, one-one-one – matters. Digital connections are great, but there’s nothing like spending an hour sitting across a table with someone, looking into their eyes, and communicating. Let’s get coffee, became a mantra when I was in college. Everyone said it. I didn’t even like coffee at the time. But we all knew we needed to connect. And only face-to-face would do.
I suppose people have interpreted performing artist Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present in various ways. Today a friend mentioned her to me, and I thought again about this woman who does strange things and it is called art. In 2010 she spent a few months in the Museum of Modern Art sitting in a chair silently while people stood in line to occupy the chair across from her. The museum visitors were allowed to sit for as long as they desired and stare back at her. It moved many people to tears. When I think about why this “piece of art” was so compelling, I believe it is because people long for the kind of connection that only face-to-face encounters bring.
A couple days ago I had dinner with a group of new friends. A few of the guys talked at length about video games. People in my own family play video games. I am very familiar with the way they can consume a person’s time. Some guys come home from work, shut themselves in their rooms, and turn on the video games. I have to wonder if this is just one more interruption that our society has created at the cost of face-to-face relationships.
This week I am starting to be intentional about meeting one-on-one with new friends and old friends. I moved to this town to be a minister, and one important way I know to minister to others is to sit with them. Listen to them. Be present. Hearts long to connect. And only face-to-face will do.