This summer, I spent several days in one of my favorite places—southern California. I toured around, I shopped, I swam, I took pictures, I sunbathed. And I met a handful of fascinating people.
One memorable individual was a man who was standing on the side of a road in Laguna Beach, adding finishing touches on a scenic painting. It was getting dark, but it was light enough for my friend and me to see its beauty. We paused and admired his work out loud, which sparked a 45-minute conversation with this stranger.
The painter, with tan skin, neat hair, and sharp eyes, told us he had been painting for –if I remember correctly- 50 years. I nodded for a few seconds, until it dawned that this man did not even look over 40! My friend commented on his youthful appearance, and the painter chuckled as if he had expected it. He continued to share his bio:
He not only painted, but gave golf lessons, wrote and published a book, gave lectures, played an instrument or two, and had a number of other talents.
“You know the reason why I look so young?” Mr. Over-Achiever slyly smiled at us 19-year-olds. “It’s because I don’t put myself in a cubicle for hours a day. I barely watch T.V. I paint, I go outdoors, I take my time to enjoy life.”
I’m thinking, I will no doubt be making art and music endlessly once I’m retired, but it’s hard to think I can do that instead of a real job to really make a living. This guy’s kinda in Lala Land.
The painter then got my attention when he warned us of the dangers of technology, especially today. Why?
He claimed, “Because it causes us to age early.”
Wait… isn’t technology supposed to make us live longer, make quality of life greater?
“Technology,” he continued, “It speeds everything up. When you teens and young adults send text messages, you make the process even shorter by abbreviating everything. The content of kids’ every day speech even sounds like text messages. You guys can’t even speak in complete sentences!”
“When people walk by my painting, they always say, ‘wow,’ ‘cool,’ or ‘awesome.’ It’ll be the day when someone actually takes the time to walk up to me and say, ‘That is an amazing work of art.’ You know why? Because they actually took the time to share a complete thought. You see, when people want to speed everything up, they cut everything short. You get to places quicker. And when you add up all the cut pieces, you end up with a shorter piece, a prematurely aged life.”
My friend and I were skeptical and quiet. Except for our buzzing cell phones every two minutes. He then challenged us to, only for the next 10 minutes, speak in complete sentences. I’ll just say it’s harder than you’d think, and it makes you think about what you’re saying before you say it. It reduces unnecessary grunts and one-worded comments.
What separates humans from animals is our level of ability to communicate. The painter believed that a person who speaks in complete, intelligent sentences shows sincerity and seriousness. That person will go far because he/she is distinguished from peers.
Although I’m not so sure if his theory that technology makes us age prematurely is legitimate, I am sure that that conversation, with a random painter in Laguna Beach, will remain in my memory. I may not text any less or reduce my use of “lol”, but I will make more of an effort to actually say something when I say something.