Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Ever pay attention to the lengths people will go to to avoid any contact with each other? We try to keep status quot and not make attention for ourselves, unless we are attention hungry and in that case, the opposite of everything I write on this blog will be true. In the sixties, proxemics was created and it was the study of the distance between people during interaction. There was personal space, 6 inches to a foot or so. Social space, 2 to 4 feet, and crowd space, 10 to infinite feet. It studied the distance different cultures needed to maintain a comfortable interaction. Here are a few examples of common proxemics violations:

Face Talker: Usually had a gallon or so of milk that morning and seems to have kept it in his mouth the whole time until speaking to you unusually close.

The Toucher: This one insists on making physical contact with you every 7 seconds or so. They usually grab for the elbow or slap the arm. Some are way too intimate, they are the gropers.

The Groper: They are your distant aunts you never see. When you do happen upon them, they kiss you right on the mouth. Not cool aunt Mertle.

The Shifty ones: They spend most of their time looking at anything but you. You speak to them, but are really speaking at them. They are somewhere else completely and are not going to pretend they are listening to you.

The Creeper: This one is only looking at your cash and prizes. You catch them at least 5 times before you inform them that your eyes are up here.

There are hundreds of violations, but I think we notice them because we are so closed off to people. Why does The Toucher make you feel uncomfortable? Were you not hugged enough as a child or hugged too much by an abusive person? Maybe neither, maybe you just don't like to be touched and never did. We decide really quickly how each conversation is going to go usually depending on the person's body language or distance and bravado. We try to avoid anything intrusive.

I think this is a problem.

I am commonly not liked by people the first few times they meet me. It depends on my mood sometimes, but usually the other persons willingness to put up with a person who hates small talk and will engage in something personal at any time. Often, I have been rude and insensitive and those times I am wrong and should be disliked. I have tried to alter with my maturity the lengths I will go to challenge someones personal space or thoughts.  But in the end, I just don't have a need for general, in-passing conversations. They are useless to me. I want to know about you, I don't want to forget I ever met you. Life isn't supposed to be lived that way. You are supposed to care about the person that pours your coffee or the new person at your church. You are supposed to speak to each other with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making joyful music to the Lord. Not try not be remembered; that makes you an automaton or droid. We have experiences and personality for a very good reason, for this reason we are all different.

It is hard to reach a world that avoids real contact with each other, if we aren't willing to put ourselves out there, to invade a person's little cocoon. If we can't stop being cool and proper, we will never begin to really be memorable. If you are different and don't act as they feel comfortable, you are eccentric, which many translate as crazy.

I picked up a friend from middle school that I saw stranded on the road with a broken car. I haven't seen him in years and really never knew him that well to begin with. I don't know why, but within 5 minutes, he was telling me about his alcohol problem and his struggle to get himself together. Usually not the impression one would want to leave after not seeing a person for 10 plus years. But he left it all out there. I won't forget it.

What if we tried to be this way with each other and those wandering through our daily paths? What if we tried for a while to notice them and exchange our thoughts with them. Our real thoughts, not just hellos and goodbyes. They may resist you, but keep it up and something will start to happen, they will open up sometimes. They won't forget you. You will have made an opportunity to share what Christ really is to you, and maybe they will see Him too.


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