It’s not a bad place to be in life where everything is always just a little funny. It is impossible to see texts or pictures on our cell phone, which has been smashed (passive voice for “Aaron smashed it with a kayak”), and yesterday, I was concerned that the phone was now no longer able to make phone calls. I called Aaron from the landline and said, “Aaron, our cell phone is broke.” He said, “That’s an understatement,” and I had been in the cabin for eight hours by myself grading papers and this was the most hilarious thing I’d ever heard.
The other thing that amuses me is our ongoing “rhetorical question dialect.” Once, we realized that some people ask and answer their own rhetorical questions as a way of making conversation, and so sometimes we talk this way, too. For instance, tonight as I was sitting down to write, I was debating whether or not to take the computer to bed and write while Aaron reads. To make my decision, I asked him if he would be asleep in five minutes, and this was Aaron’s involved pontification:
“Will I be asleep in five minutes? No. But will I be asleep in thirty minutes? Yes. Will I be asleep in ten minutes? Probably not. In twenty-five minutes? Probably so. Will I be asleep in twenty minutes? Maybe. Will I be asleep in fifteen minutes? . . . . Maybe.”
This was also hilarious. Something about that second “maybe.” The best thing about living with someone for years and years and years is there’s a whole history in a single remark. Aaron always tells me that I’m the only person who thinks he’s funny, but I think that’s because I don’t just hear the joke, I hear a whole person—a good person who never hurts people and laughs, like really chuckles, at himself. It’s the goodness in people that makes life feel light and fun, like I can tickle its feet while it playfully pulls away and kicks back.
I recently read Sherry Turkle’s essay “Can You Hear Me Now?” on the alienating effects of technology; she has this to say about how our relationships change as a result of excessive dependence on the immediacy of technology:
“Emotional life can move from ‘I have a feeling, I want to call a friend’ to ‘I want to feel something, I need to make a call.’”
I think that’s the biggest difference between spending time with a person and spending time with a machine. For better or worse, we don’t try to feel something when we’re with a real person; the feelings—the happiness, the insecurity, the fear, the trust—are part of human chemistry. But, when I settle down to spend some time with a machine, there’s a vague searching sensation trailing my every move, like I’m looking to feel the feelings I would like to feel.
A joke on Facebook can make me laugh but not deep down. And it takes a deep place to make a feeling. It’s our human depths that can’t be manufactured, and I think from the shadows of those depths come our best light.
Our light, our home:
(Even better than the Thomas Kinkade you see in the mall, don’t you think?)