When Boethius said life is a wheel, he must have had Valentine’s Day in mind. It’s not just the number of engagements that take place on that day, with their luminous, lustrous circles of enchantment dancing above caviar platters on the fingers of the luckiest. It’s also the number of broken hearts mourning their crevices and disrepair.
Life is a wheel: don’t despair, good times are coming. Enjoy the good: bad times are around the corner. Don’t get too caught up in what the circle is supposed to be—"There is room for all of us in the Sacred Hoop," said a Native American teenager in the book I am reading about young female despair.
In truth, good and bad times are not the only stops on the wheel. For instance, who ever said marriage is not parenting? Now we call it parenting, now we call it marriage. When my husband left the nest, was he not just following Nature’s path, the oldest of those who would be leaving eventually, with our eldest leaving for college in two years, and then the other two in her wake? Parent? Partner? Spin the wheel.
Even the calendar is a wheel. Take February. Please. Our busy diversity calendar is so tied up with No Name Calling Month (an upgrade from No Name Calling Week) and Black History Month that we almost missed Chinese New Year the other day.
All of these events are special, but really, children only want to be on the computer. And why shouldn’t they? I only want to be on the computer. And I hate it. But I’m tired, and it’s easy. What does it mean when you are sitting in the balcony of an assembly, whether it is for Black History or No Name Calling (or both, in one assembly!) and little screens all over the place reveal that the little ones are texting, chatting, and listening to music on their headphones?
Why does anyone make the effort to put together an assembly at all when we would all just rather be using our screens?
For that matter, why does anyone pay money for lodging when all anyone wants to do is sit on the computer? Why don’t we all live in one heated hut with lots of chargers?
Maybe all this snuggling with technology is just a stop on the wheel, and the wheel will spin again and land on experiential reality. I hope so. I am worried about the loss of a sense of touch in the little ones who read stories on their iPads. What sense will compensate for the loss of touch? Will they all hear really well? Smell?
If technology is a stop on the wheel, and we will come back to high touch (a phrase I heard in a marketing presentation—did you know you can be high touch and high tech at the same time?) then what will we be like when we get there? I hope we bring lots of memories of the earlier touch time, if we have them. I’m packing a big steamer trunk now, and I see this:
• A jazz band playing on Valentine’s Day. Hipsters eating matzoh ball soup and bone marrow.
• A ring of fire delivered on an appetizer.
• A question.
• Marriage, beautiful children, these birthday parties:
Scavenger hunt, hotel sleepover, flourless chocolate cakes during Passover birthdays; football pool parties, balloon artists we met at the mall, clowns we met on the bus, food styled from the Roald Dahl cookbook.
• I see these other special meals: chicken with dumplings; chicken with olives and prunes from the Silver Palate cookbook; steak, shake and cake; meat with a side of meat.
This Valentine’s Day, as I slip off my ring and apply a poultice of grainy, salted reality to the indentation beneath, I know this: I will never again turn back the wheel to the days of those meals, those birthdays, that coffee in the morning that I did not make for myself. But perhaps, if Boethius is right, we will all spin the wheel someday back to a high touch world, not this high tech one. There, we will keep our eyes on the spaghetti we are twirling, either alone or together, and not on the screen behind the spaghetti, on the cold hard wall, projecting a reality that is different from our own.