Here is story from the past:
I once asked a very clever man why he kept addressing me formally, even though I was about forty years younger than him. This clever man answered at the drop of a hat: “Long ago, I knew a very clever man. He was Jewish,” he said, “he was the one who taught me that trick and it really does work well, in my observation. Once you cross that line and address someone informally, there’s no going back to formal.”
At the time, I didn’t understand much of that fable. But isn’t the very point of a fable to show its cards slowly, gradually, bit by bit, until it finally hits you as hard as a hammer with its lifelong lesson?
Now that I think of it, we feel truly close to someone only when we’re on a first-name basis with them. As our love towards them grows and they become more valuable to us, our words towards them become more hard-hearted, eventually turning into stones. While someone’s unfamiliar, we put on our thinking caps before saying anything—we can’t afford a single slip of the tongue or an unwarranted remark.
We flood them with compliments—some genuine, some silly, some feigned: “That top looks so great on you;” “Purple is definitely your color;” “Something about you reminds me of Sophia Loren. It must be your cheekbones…” Then these compliments become part of the urban dictionary, and we look for new ones, in order to stand out. We strive to have our signature style, not to resemble others. This is how a variety of phrases permeate the colloquial language, one of which I overheard at a club a little while ago: “რა კარგად გულაობთ.”
Geez, I thought to myself.
We’re basically hunting. Or fishing. As soon as the hearts are conquered and they take the bait, which means that we’ve become precious to one another, we no longer feel the need to pour on the charm. We mostly strike the wrong note, let alone saying something good. Once the other person gets accustomed to it, our words become shorter every step of the way. That is how petty our love becomes. Or, to be more accurate, that is how pettily we express it. Not because our emotions are less intense, but simply because, now that the mission has been accomplished, saying something good no longer carries benefit. The heart has been conquered, so why waste time amidst this universal lack of time?
Lack of time or fast pace of life is a separate saga, and that is precisely why words have turned into stone. Soon, we may not need to say anything to each other anymore. You like someone’s hairstyle? Swipe your screen and click on that yellow emoticon with hearts instead of eyes. You agree? – Throw in that red 100 emoji, underlined twice for emphasis. It made you laugh? – There’s something for that as well—the one laughing out loud, rolling on the floor. It made you angry? – use the vermilion red emoji.
That’s actually nothing—trust me, someone will soon write an entire novel with emojis. If you’re looking to express more intense emotions, take a peek at the GIF section and, oh boy, there you’ll find anything… You will ask your lover to marry you without saying a word; or suggest that you get divorced; you will even negotiate alimony with your ex-wife; send your student an evaluation of their master’s thesis with a single image in motion; discuss effective ways of stabilizing the ongoing conflict in the New East.
But if all this sounds like a hassle, like away and be all right. Perhaps, my grandchildren’s generation won’t even know the meaning of beautiful and it will be replaced with an emoji or gif of a movie star.
Gradually, words are deprived of their purpose, while we lose the superpower that allows us to share genuine emotions.
But I actually believe otherwise. It’s a bit more complicated and, at the same time, a bit simpler. We, humans, feed on human prayer and words—just like gods. If we are not getting enough, we grow weaker and become evil at the end.
What convinced me that this is true was a recent trip with my distant relatives from Batumi to Tbilisi—a middle aged couple. I had almost nothing to discuss with them. Everything I had I exhausted around Choloki. Afterwards, it was just tweets about the weather, cargo trucks, speed loving BMW drivers and other woes. Somewhere on the Rikoti Pass, just before Jargvali, the husband, tired from steering the wheel for so long, looked at his wife, and broke the awkward silence with his “Do you know how beautiful you are?” “.
The lady didn’t say anything, but I had a feeling that, from that moment on, the car was going faster. And I don’t think the driver of the engine were responsible for that. I firmly believe that it was her energy that made the drive faster. We were sitting in silence again, but without the awkwardness in the form of a sharp blade over my shoulder. This was the loud kind of silence. Later, when the husband stepped out for a smoke and I, for some reason, decided not to keep him company (perhaps, due to lack of conversation topics again), the lady said to me: “This man has lost his mind. We’ve been together for twenty years and this is the first time he told me I’m beautiful.” We arrived in Tbilisi safely. Safely and joyfully.
The very business model of saying something nice is simple – you make your business partners stronger with a minimal investment and not only do you lose nothing, but become stronger and wealthier at that. After all, what could be easier than telling your friend that the New Year’s festivities have not left a trait on his skin?
Or that he does not look like he endured two New Years over the course of the past two weeks.
Author: Dato Gorgiladze