Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Phone Calls and Such

Has anyone seen Veith's post on phone conversations? Thought provoking.

I admit to feeling embarrassed calling specific people. Most of the embarrassment, though, seems to stem from a fear of being annoying or unwanted. I am alright with business calls, for the most part. One is expected to call about business, to straighten out one's affairs, and then to hang up. It's straightforward and no one objects. I enjoy getting personal calls, even though I'm often stilted, stammering and awkward on the phone. Personal-social calls tell me that the caller cares a lot. I mean, a TON. (It takes effort to carve out time for a call, and effort to maintain a conversation. It takes courage to reach out across the invisible miles to the unseen other and poke him/her in the shoulder. "Hey! Talk to me a bit. Please.")

Don't get me wrong. I like email. I appreciate email for the very reasons that at times I prefer phone conversations to email. With email one can precisely formulate one's words with deliberation, while phone conversations necessarily disallow deliberation. With email, one has a copy of what was said and can review the message at will to reassure one's self of the content and sender's meaning. With verbal messages, the words are distorted through memory. With email one has the opportunity to say much without interruption - to paint a landscape that takes concentration. A conversation necessarily involves a back and forth, a give and take. With email I personally am less inclined to hold back what I wish to talk about for fear that the other doesn't want to hear it. In a phone conversation or face to face conversation, I feel rude if I talk of myself uninvited, or talk long. The insidious little voice in my ear whispers that it doesn't really matter to anyone but me anyway - the listener is probably smiling and nodding politely with closed ear and thoughts afar. I could babble as well as any, but when I do, it leaves me feeling the emptier and more foolish because there is seldom a response that indicates anything other than the polite listener. Those who ask more, who draw me out, who respond genuinely, give me the best gift any humans have and I love them with a sinner's love (Even the pagans love those who love them). Among these are my father.

To sum up, I like phone calls because they are risky, unchoreographed, and pure grace. One must remember them in faith. I like email because I can control it, prepare it, return to it for (relative) certainty, and participate with low risk of rejection. Phone calls are dangerous because they put you in direct contact with another human being, their ambitions, aspirations, vocations, loves, hates, moods, babbling. Emails buffer you from all these things and put you in contact only with a mind - an almost disembodied mind - that can deal with you coolly as and when it will in a disembodied and removed manner.

As in the days of my infancy, blood and gore are more beautiful than unruffled clothes. The rag doll is more exciting than the stiff china maid. The fragile china makes one tingle with delight, while the disposable paper plate does not.

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