Like millions of people, I tuned in for the Beatles Tribute on CBS last year. It was a lovely evening, but it wasn't anything like my evening attending a Paul McCartney concert several years ago. That evening was magical from beginning to end.
You probably have memories like that, too, when you found yourself in the same room with someone you'd admired from afar. That is not an experience that can be duplicated by technology.
As much as I appreciate the gifts of technology, I often wonder if we're forgetting how powerful it is to have real contact.
Back in the nineties, the independent adult ed movement began to take off all around the country. The timing was perfect for me as I was beginning to teach my seminars on creative self-employment.
These programs filled a real gap, making it possible for busy adults to spend a few hours-rather than committing every Tuesday night for six weeks-gaining some useful information and ideas.
I loved the programs because most of them were small businesses run by a tiny staff that usually included the owner. I also loved the people these programs attracted-curious lifelong learners who were equally excited to have this option to explore new ideas.
Sadly, these programs began to disappear. Sometimes the overhead was too high for the income being generated. A few owners tried to cut their costs by moving their catalogs online, instead of spending thousands on the print catalogs.
That didn't work very well, either, and I think I know why. Catalogs are for browsing and often deliver unexpected prizes. Hmmm...making a living without a job? Wonder what that's about. Think I'll sign up and check it out.
With online catalogs, you pretty much need to know what you're looking for in advance.
But that's not the only reason I feel sad that these programs didn't survive. We lost something really valuable, something that happens when we make the effort to put ourselves in a room with others exploring the same subject.
There's another dimension added to our learning when it's gotten person-to-person. We might even make a new friend, have an insight, get a question answered that only happens through personal connection.
Or as C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out, "Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or even into the thing that has them....They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry."