I picked up a magazine the other day that had a short article in it which delineated the differences between direct and indirect living.
Direct living: sing a song yourself
Less direct: listen to a live band
mostly indirect: listen to a song on a record or cd
indirect: download it on itunes and listen
Direct living engages us, makes us active participants, while indirect living makes us spectators, forces us to live on the edges of our experiences, allows us to partially or fully disengage.
Direct living is meaningful and rich; indirect living can be less so.
Direct living is a little old fashioned, while indirect living has become a state of life for the 21st century, largely due to technology. Instead of speaking in person with someone, we talk to them on the phone, we write them an email, we send them a text message. (I am well aware of the irony of this statement as I compose this blog post, an indirect mode of communication, yet I hope it will prompt more direct living from any readers I have!).
Now, this difference is not hard to grasp, but I think it has remarkable implications in many respects. In the subjects that concern me: education, food, and relationships, there are three particular directions I see the idea of direct living headed–stagnation, revolution, and reversal.
In education, there is stagnation in the movement toward direct learning. We know where we should go, but we are not moving there. I want my students to have more direct learning and less indirect learning. I want them to go on a field trip to the river and pick up the trash there and analyze the content of the water directly, instead of reading about a polluted river and discussing the situation indirectly. I want them to act out Romeo and Juliet, directly engaging with the characters, instead of just reading it silently to themselves at home. I want them to practice balancing their budget, instead of just doing arbitrary practice sums. I want them to directly apply their learning to their lives, instead of learning for the sole purpose of passing a test or matriculating into a “good college.” I want them to “stand and search” rather than “sit and get.” Ironically, the indirect way of learning is the more old fashioned way, while the direct way of learning is considered very 21st century. Such an paradox mirrors the backwards and forwards pulls on education. With equal and opposite forces pulling in opposite directions, acceleration is zero, and we do not move.
Happily, in the food world, there is a direct revolution emerging at every turn, leading us back to a more direct (and old fashioned) way of eating. In moving forwards toward more direct living, we are actually heading backwards in time in the way that we approach food. In lieu of flocking to the nearest Walmart to purchase frozen peas and pizza, people are heading to farmers markets to speak with the men and women who actually grow their food. Instead of pouring egg beaters from a paper box onto the frying pan, people are keeping chickens and collecting their eggs for breakfast. This motion towards direct living makes us turn our heads and look back to a past where people didn’t just know they were eating, they knew what they were eating, who grew it, and exactly how it arrived upon their plates.
In our relationships, perhaps this means sitting on a porch conversing with friends rather than going to see a movie with them. 2 hours is a lot of time to spend sitting next to someone and not talking to them. Perhaps this means limiting TV time with your significant other, and taking time to go for a walk together.
This weekend, I went to New Orleans to visit a friend who I don’t get to see much. We spent the entire weekend together, with 5 other close friends who flew in from Boston, Norfolk, and Chapel Hill, and we spent the entire weekend living directly. We talked to each other in person, the whole weekend. We ate delicious, local favorites like Crawfish Etouffee and Beignets from Cafe Du Mond. We sat and cheered on a troupe of street performers as they backflipped and we sweated in the sun.
The highlight of the weekend turned out to deal with the sounds of the city. We could have spent our Saturday morning lounging around listening to oldies on Kat’s ipod, but instead, we had a rare, especially direct, treat. It was Kat’s birthday weekend, and her boyfriend Mike had hired an a capella group from New Orleans to come serenade her. We sat on the porch and listened, clapped, and sang along as the singers serenaded us to the sounds of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I’ll post some videos and photos soon.