Monday, December 12, 2011

the visit

buy some flowers or a bottle of wine to bring to the lady of the house and we're off.....

here we go visiting again. 'tis the season for visiting. visiting is something we do all year but during the holidays a lot more visiting seems to take place with dinners, parties and just plain casual dropping by—real old-time mainers refer to this as a door-yard-call—to say a quick hello.

not so long ago—before the invention of electricity —people didn't have many relatively inexpensive leisure activities to participate in during their spare time, so preparations for afternoon or evening visits were elaborate and taken very seriously. people left calling cards, made detailed plans, filled up their social calendars. the visit was a significant event in daily life.

i got thinking about what was once the fine art of visiting and how important it is to spend time with people. in the 21st century we don't concern ourselves too much about that. (why would anyone categorize visiting a fine art?) perhaps we don't think too much about anything we do anymore because we have so much going on, so many distractions and demands on our spare time—health clubs, shopping centers, computers, cell phones, ipods, radio, t.v.—that no one gives serious thought to any of it. we simply do what we want to do.

nevertheless, in a world with so many choices, visiting should, perhaps, be elevated in status to a fine art once again. and what about the conversation, that back and forth, give and take? it ought to be a fine art, too. often people find it difficult to focus on their friends and the conversation going on around them because they're distracted by talking on their cell phone, fiddling with apps, playing games or texting. the gadget gets the undivided attention, not the human beings, and conversation suffers.

you could argue that getting together on skype or any video chat is good enough to count as visiting time. i would agree—to some degree it does—especially when there's no other way to get together. yet there's really no substitute for being in the presence of actual, three-dimensional people, surrounding yourself with family and friends.

taking the time to call on people and to talk to them, to be immersed in the company of people we are fond of, at the holidays and beyond, is to participate in a kind of social art—a rather civilized art—the truly fine art of the visit.

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