After seven months of Zoom meetings, I finally convinced my Men’s Group to meet outdoors. Instead of the usual 7:30 to 10:00 evening meeting, we met in the Redwood Grove of the Arboretum at 3 in the afternoon. What a pleasure that was!
The weather cooperated, a Fall “summer” day with temperatures in the 70’s and us comfortably settled in the shade seated appropriately apart, but still close enough to feel the power of the circle. And full bodies in three-dimensions, voices that resonated in open air instead of over computer speakers. When people talked, their words supported by gestures, body postures, facial expressions. And while we listened, we also heard the birds, drifts of conversations from people strolling near, distant drone of traffic punctuated by occasional motorcycle roars, sirens and even a helicopter. I made little sculptures with woodchips while listening and also delighted in their fragrant smell.
In short, we came together (minus the opening and closing hugs) the way human beings have always come together before being pinched into gridded squares on screens. And it made all the difference in the world.
No great insight, this. Just renewed appreciation for one of the many norms locked away during these COVID times. I remember (and keep this confidential!) that once this men’s group started meeting on Zoom, our words and thoughts seemed so much less interesting that they were before. Were we really that boring?
Maybe. But I think that was more than partly due to the removal of all the other sensory stimuli that makes conversation alive and dynamic. In other words, the music and dance of our speech, the how of what we say and the background surrounding it, is part of, and often, more important than, the what of what say. And that the power of this men’s group that has been meeting for 30 years now is not the depth of our insight into the challenges of being male, but the power of being physically together in a space, to enjoy the simple pleasure of being men together in a room. Or a redwood grove.
In poetic form:
Being together in a room far exceeds
Being together on a Zoom.
Sitting circled wholly seen far exceeds
Being squared on a screen.
Being out in open air far exceeds
Being indoors on a chair.