I went through the drive-thru of Kneaders yesterday, a sort of bakery and sandwich shop that I only recently discovered you can get on the go. I ordered a Panini and though I’ve never been a huge fan of them, it came with a side of potato chips. I do have to say in all fairness that as potato chips go, Kneaders’ vaguely parmesan incarnation is not too bad.
The chips made me think of a previous visit to the restaurant when I sat with two good friends at an outside table as we watched the sun setting. We three talked about life and our dreams and perhaps one day sitting watching a sunset in L.A. where we would all be making movies. (In actuality, the other two have since relocated instead to New York City and I’m to follow closely after).
I remember that evening not just because it felt so idyllic, but because after we’d been sitting there for a while, one of the boys reached over and took one of those parmesan potato chips off of my long-neglected plate. It was such a little thing, and it went unacknowledged in our conversation, but it pleased me. I didn’t know he felt close enough to me or knew me well enough to know that I would gladly share what was on my plate. Skeptics should note that this boy isn’t just greedy or grabby, those are just the terms we’d gotten to after years of working together and cultivating our friendship.
He didn’t take his cues from one of these:
I had lunch this week with another friend and we were served salad from a large bowl that was meant for both of us to eat from. He served us up and knowing that he didn’t like olives and I love them, he dropped individual olives from the bowl onto my plate one at a time (each with their own tiny thud). It was endearing, as was the tomato that he took from his plate and placed on mine after his small tomato quota had been met. It made me feel connected to him to know that there were no formal borders between our plates and that he was as willing to give to me as that other dining partner was willing to take from me.
He didn’t take his cues from one of these:
I love the giving and the taking that comes with sharing our lives with each other. Though I find sometimes that, for me, giving is much easier than taking. These past few months since I’ve been out of the regular circuit of having classes and spending time around lots of people, have taught me to value the power of friendship and intimacy and have me just craving those rare moments of feeling truly known.
I love that those two boys (though I know that they didn’t put nearly this much thought into it) knew my nature from personal exposure and felt a certain level of comfort with me. That comfort and connection doesn’t come from an Internet connection. Don’t worry; this isn’t the part where I suddenly start to harangue social media and the toll it has taken on my generation. But I do find that having hundreds of friends doesn’t make me feel less lonely and I suspect I’m not the only one.
I’ve heard the word “nameste’ fairly frequently in my adult life. It is a salutation commonly used to in India and Nepal, but it has sort of been adopted into practice in the United States in association with yoga. Though I’ve heard the term dozens of times, I’ve only recently learned what it means; “the divine in me sees the divine in you.”
That notion so captures what I feel when I truly connect with someone; whether it be my mother or a boy I want to love or a good friend. Truly connecting with someone not only gives you the chance to see for a moment into their greatest worth and potential, but it reminds you of your own.
I can’t help but think we lull ourselves into a false sense of connection when we stalk our friends’ Facebook pages and Instagrams and know intimately what’s going on in their lives, but don’t really know how they feel about any of it. We know what someone ate for dinner and how their one-year-old’s birthday party was decorated and whether they bought a new outfit, but we don’t engage with them personally. We don’t let someone know we’re thinking about them or find things out with actual contact and exchange of ideas and offerings of support. We don’t share in conversations or share meals or freely share our admiration, we only share youtube videos and memes.
Again, I’m not just bagging on the evils of the Internet. Because I am someone who thirsts after new knowledge and because I’m a resident know-it-all, I think having all of the collective knowledge of the human race at our fingertips is a delight and a miracle. But perhaps that collective knowledge has not brought us closer to collective wisdom.
I think the purest practice of our religion comes down to our love for one another and our willingness to be close to one another. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord, but the next is like unto it, to love thy neighbor as thyself. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Having someone steal your potato chips or give you olives is simple and maybe even silly, but I crave the kind of love and level of comfort that they represent. I crave the opportunity to communicate face to face and spend my time with people and learn about love by giving it. I want to know people more truly, and I hope they’ll want to know me too.