After a busy CPW weekend, I was driving home on the Mass Pike basking in the long awaited spring sun streaming through the windshield and heating up the front seat of my compact car. I was drinking an ice coffee and listening to one of my favorite programs on public radio and the guest was Sherry Turkle who directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.
I was engrossed listening to Ms. Turkle as she described the need for all of us in this technological age to occasionally turn off our phones and unplug our Ipods at key moments in the day to fully engage in what she described as “sacred space.’
But what was so interesting about her message was that she wasn”t saying our personal use of technology is a bad thing, and she wasn”t saying that we can”t fully use and enjoy our electronic devices, but instead she was wondering how we might use these tools in better ways in the future. The message was: how can we even begin to ask the questions and reflect on our use of technology, if we never give ourselves enough time away from work, from checking our email, answering our phones, and listening to our music, to just think? We might think up something wonderful.
And it seemed to me that this sentiment was not all that different from something I heard Dr Neri Oxman say during the Featured Speakers panel on Friday of CPW. Her message to the audience of MIT admitted students was that they were not just here to solve “particular problems’ but to develop a new vision for the act of problem solving itself. In my mind, the possibility of “developing a new vision’ in this way could be severely hampered if one is constantly in the act of doing, of solving, of working, and of being busy.
It was especially gratifying to me to turn on this radio program in my car and have this sunny spot of time to myself to reflect, because I had just made the decision to drive back home only to head into Boston again a few hours later for a play at the Cutler Majestic Theater. The original plan was for me to stay at work all day and for my teens to meet me back at the theater for 7pm. It was a good logistical plan in my head, given all the driving back and forth that I had just done over four days. But now on Sunday, after getting to a stopping point on a project at noon, I decided what I needed most was to shut off the computer and to make time for the “sacred space’ of the car ride with my kids before the play.
Turned out to be a brilliant move for me (ok lets forget about the gas tank for a minute) but my teens hadn”t seen me for four days in a row and I knew that they would have things to tell me about their life. I knew they would want to connect with me before the play and an hour drive in close confinement would mean we”d actually have a great conversation.
Wonderful, surprising, and transformative things can happen during these moments of being present in a space where you can relax and talk and just be with others that you care about. For me, this was the inside of my Toyota packed with my kids and family on yet my 10th trip on the Mass Pike in a matter of days.
And while I was driving, I was also reminded of another one of my favorite moments from CPW in the Rainbow Lounge the morning before, where I relaxed in a comfortable, cheerful space with others from the LGBT community and ate pancakes and bacon, listening to Bob Marley playing in the background. I had a conversation with two parents that morning who told me how at home their daughter felt here at MIT and the lounge was just one of the many reasons.
At a time when other universities are replacing their dedicated LGBT groups in favor of a larger more impersonal Office of Diversity and still others leave the LGBT organizing solely up to students alone, MIT has a great space to hang out in, or join others for a community dinner on a Tuesday night. And it is staffed by paid employees, volunteers, and a faculty support staff. It”s a real “sacred space’ in every sense of the word.