Forum, Sept. 7: Making deeper connections in our digital-dominated world

Published: 9/6/2019 10:00:18 PM
Modified: 9/6/2019 10:00:06 PM
Making deeper connections in our digital-dominated world

We are surrounded by technology. We have become dependent on what technology provides. We create many of our relationships via technology. But to really connect and give the relationship an opportunity to flourish depends on face-to-face connection.

We often use social media platforms as a filter, an autocorrect to “improve” or delete our flaws. We embellish, tweak and get rid of the special qualities that set us apart from the rest of the world. Our imperfections make us unique, imperfections show that we are human. It shows that we have character and personality. Embrace being you.

Even with face-to-face interactions, technology can hinder profound connection. We are often looking at our phones, checking our newsfeeds, watching videos and texting other people when we’re on a date or should be simply enjoying each other’s company. This is a barrier to what is right in front of us. The conversation we are having with the person sitting at arm’s length just lost all empathy and emotion because our attention is elsewhere.

I challenge you to set your phone down, to set time aside when technology is not the center of the conversation. To truly immerse yourself in what is right in front of you. To take advantage of true, deep, intimate moments. To bring awareness to your thoughts and emotions.

At the dinner table, when you ask your significant other, your kids or your parents how their day was, be truly present in the moment. Ask questions. Dig a little deeper. Why was today such a good day? Dive past the superficial level of the conversation. Ask yourself what truly matters — everyone else in the world, or those who are right in front of you?



Change the lights in Norwich

You can’t make this up. I know it’s the end of days, but really. Recently, our low-cost, internet-based telephone provider began to prevent some incoming calls from going through to the home phone number I have owned for 45 years. Callers would be told “this is no longer a working number.”

Outgoing calls were not affected. But some incoming calls do go through. Our phone company can still reach us. And scam callers can reach us anytime they want. Somebody from “Reading, Vt.,” called to remind us that the warranty on our car had run out. The “Cancer Society” needs help. “Boston” is worried about our internet. But the winner, hands down, is “AppleCare,” which has called eight times already tonight. Sorry, nine times.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing about an earlier letter I sent to the Forum about how disappointing celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing was for me and how well-meaning, thoughtful, intelligent scientists, engineers, administrators and politicians decided to give up on mankind’s wonderful dream to explore the heavens and instead decided on the shuttle and near-Earth orbit. Now we have to ask the Russians for a lift.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing about the traffic lights in Norwich. I’ve driven through Norwich for 44 years now and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the well-meaning, thoughtful, intelligent Selectboard members think is going on in Norwich after 6 p.m. Can’t drivers be allowed to navigate these intersections with yellow and red flashing lights starting at 6 p.m., and not the insane 10 p.m. as it is now? We can always go back to 10 if we fail.

It might be righteous to put up signs advocating for solar energy conversion, but it doesn’t help that we burn thousands of gallons of fuel every year waiting in the dark, often with no cars in sight, for the lights to change. Give us a chance.



A silence on deficit spending

For as long as anyone can remember, the Republican Party has professed to be virulently opposed to federal budget deficits, which add to the national debt.

In its 2008 platform, for instance, the GOP declared: “We favor adoption of the Balanced Budget Amendment to require a balanced budget except in time of war.”

Four years later, the party’s 2012 platform read: “Unless we take dramatic action now, young Americans and their children will inherit an unprecedented legacy of enormous and unsustainable debt.”

Four years after that, the 2016 GOP platform preached that, “Our national debt is a burden on our economy and families. ... We must impose firm caps on future debt ... and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.”


You see, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected that the federal deficit will reach a record-setting (and eye-popping) $1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, a 40% increase over the previous year. And what do we now hear from Republicans about deficit spending? Crickets.

If, as Republicans maintain, budget deficits are a burden on our economy and families, they are simply being hypocritical in allowing them to balloon. On the other hand, if budget deficits aren’t, in fact, a burden on our economy and families, Republicans are being ... you know ... hypocritical.



Walk aims to end Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. I will be joining participants of all ages in the fight against the disease on Sept. 22, at 9 a.m., at Lyman Park in White River Junction. I will be with a team of Hanover Rotarians and friends.

There are almost 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, more than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. This is a growing health crisis that has no cure.

I am participating in this effort because of the recent loss of my friend Andy Harvard, who was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s 10 years ago at age 58, and Nat Goodhue, a fellow ski team member and cousin of my wife, Perry. He is still with us, living in Stowe, Vt.

And while Alzheimer’s disease is relentless, so are we.

I invite you to join me. The money raised will help fund care, support and research to combat this devastating disease. Participants can join a team or register to walk as an individual at From this page, you can find my personal page and the Rotary Team page.



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