Gimme, gimme: Less stuff, more spirit
How do you feel about presents?
I tend to like them.
My favorite categories:
- Surprise ones.
- In-honor-of-no-occasion variety.
- Simple and tremendously thoughtful type.
My least favorite short-term but most favorite long-term: The ones that come wrapped in difficulty.
Those suckers are extremely tough to open and incredibly rewarding once untapped, torn apart and assembled properly.
While actual, tangible gifts were my favorite flavor for the first half of my life, I’m coming to see the second portion of my god-willing years will be centered around gifts of the spirit.
- The intangible.
- The soul-spurring.
- The small moment type.
- The lasting, memory-making stuff.
Chief among these are three particular types of presents: the gifts of time, attention and experience.
Some may think these three gifts are inexpensive and easy-to-come by. I differ.
Gifts of time, attention and experience are exceedingly rare these days.
Let’s be brutally honest, loves.
We pride ourselves on “busy.” The busier we are, the more righteous we feel about our place in this world and the work we are doing.
We define ourselves through distraction.
Managing the 5,000–7,000 demands for our immediate behavior, which we receive daily from a variety of inputs (social media, email, text, messaging apps, etc.), feels like an accomplishment, so we easily accept the notion it is.
It is not. It is actually the management of data.
We defer our own experiences to fleeting impulses of glee delivered by another world. Instead of having moments of human connection, of natural connection, of community that involve physical presence, we increasingly opt to connect in realms without smells, without touches, without the natural world.
Instead of going outside to see the sunrise, we snap a photo through a window and post it to our social feed and then extract delight when someone double taps within seconds, as we walk back to our couch — never actually experiencing the sunset at all.
Let me say that again: we never actually experience the sunset at all.
When was the last time someone gave you the gift of their undivided attention? No distractions.
You were their sole focus — without a phone within arm’s reach, without another person nearby, without a television on or a screen flashing.
When was the last time someone listened beyond your words and asked you a probing, deep question you needed time to formulate your answer to?
Do you remember what that felt like?
When was the last time someone planned an unusual or extraordinary experience for you and was fully present with you in that experience?
When was the last time you did that for yourself?
For someone else?
While the gifts of presence, attention and experience are things we desire, they are also gifts we have the ability to generate and share, beginning a chain reaction of reciprocation.
Here in 2018, in the western world, in the middle class, we are drowning in goods. We have so many, many things.
And yet we are starving — famished for the meaningful, intangible gifts of human presence, relationship and deepening experiences.
In my work as the co-founder of Root + River, an intrinsic branding practice, our mission is to inspire leaders to go inward. Our core offering is centered around these three gifts of presence, attention and experience. I didn’t consciously know that was what we were focused on when we designed our offering, tested it and saw to it that it evolved on its own.
We were driven instead by an intuitive sense and a humanistic understanding that what people needed most was to be seen and heard and given permission to dive deeply into themselves in an internally a meaningful way to create an externally meaningful endeavor.
We are in total service to our clients for a day with our complete presence and undivided attention, while we provide an unusual experience we have crafted thoughtfully and intentionally.
I mention this because in doing this work for the last three and a half years, I see how increasingly parched the human soul is for these gifts.
Providing them is like giving people a drink of the sweet water of spirit — quenching a deep need they have for these gifts.
I watch as they slowly, moment-by-moment, come alive. Relishing the care, the focus, the intense listening we do.
It’s obvious to me in these moments how much more we can do for one another by giving each other these gifts.
Presence. Attention. Experience.
I am not immune to the distractions of our age, nor to the allure of busy-ness nor to the faux experiencing of life. Every day, I battle these forces and fail often.
Nor am I dismissive of a well-intentioned tangible gift. I enjoy those greatly. (Especially books, in case you were wondering.)
Yet. It’s the gifts of the spirit that I, like everyone else I know, want — and need — the most.
Emily Soccorsy is the founder of EmJoy, Inc. and the co-founder of Root + River, an intrinsic branding practice. A lifelong romancer of language and art, she writes, creates and imagines daily in order to live the creative life meant for her. @emilyatlarge