It used to take time, a very long time, to learn about the world: to see the other side of a mountain, for example, was to cross it. Nowadays, computers speed up the learning process and with them, in seconds, we see the Alps — in minutes, we learn so much. It’s true that this electronic short-cut eliminates burdensome qualities of time, but computers also strip away gold. With the rapid clicking of our keyboards, we have lost the beauty of processing our world slowly. There are, however, still many situations when the flow of knowledge is reduced to a drip … drip … drip. I believe in the value of the drip.
In my life, foreign language is a remarkable example of how the flow of knowledge can be dramatically reduced. Tam, my Vietnamese friend, is a wonderful example of the drip. We were together for our first time away from work, at Diana’s Baths. There we sat on rocks in a peaceful silence; we were joined by the beauty of nature and by the pleasure of each others’ company. When the silence was broken, it was broken by little drips of English as Tam attempted to communicate. I learned very little from her that day, but the drips were more precious to me than all the facts I could have acquired through Google had I typed in and searched “Vietnam.” My favorite drip from Tam came weeks later. She was eating a salad with Ranch dressing when she blurted out: “I like blue cheese.” How unexpected this was – she rarely spoke! How exciting it was to learn something about her! It was but a drip, it’s true, and yet for me it carried the weight of an entire book!
I met my friend Dominique in a bookstore located in the heart of Old Québec. In this scenario, I am the one deficient in language! Although I communicate in French fairly well on paper, I am often reduced to a drip when speaking. One time, we had both finished eating our lunch. The server brought a tall glass of milk to the table. As we talked, Dominique took a sip here and a sip there. I looked at her glass of milk, then I looked up at her and said, “I don’t like to drink milk without eating something with it.» Dominique looked at me with interest. She smiled and said, «Vraiment?» … «Really?» and that was that! This was one of my own “Tam” moments and its memory is golden — the two of us were joined together in friendship by a tall glass of milk, a drip of information, her simple interest and sweet response!
I believe in the value of taking short-cuts with the internet, in seeing the Alps in seconds and in learning a great deal in minutes, but I also believe in the value of the drip, when knowledge is passed along ever so s…l…o…w…ly!
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.