These days, every hour seems to give us some new fact shared on any number of the screens we watch. Each morning, a new daunting update. But here is a figure that might surprise you, eighty-percent of how we communicate is non-verbal (you can fact check that by the way). It’s a pretty jarring number in the context of humanity when you start to realize how close we actually are to each other, maybe not in the physical sense, but in how simple the connection between humans could be. We say more with our bodies than we do our lips.
Being thrusted into any situation where the spoken language doesn’t remotely resemble your mother tongue, you can feel any which way about it - excited, scared, overwhelmed… but for years traveling to Italy, absorbing the culture, sewing ourselves into the fabric of the land and its people, we picked up a few things, and not just the obvious ones. Sure, spoken words are beautiful, Italian in its very own right is part of the romantics next to Spanish and French, but above all, Italian, is more than a language, it’s a physical embodiment of culture. Those hand movements are synonymous with emotion, you needn’t be a linguist to understand. A good friend of ours told us a story that painted the picture perfectly, which we loosely transcribed here, with some obvious redactions.
“After arriving in Italy for our wedding, we were testing out caterers. The first was in a pristine restaurant, with all the right touches. The food was thoughtfully prepared and meticulously presented. So we thought right away, how could you top this? The next day, we met with a rustic looking woman, who, by all accounts, presented herself as our driver (we’ll get to that in a moment). With only a few words and strained smiles, she drove us to a remote part of the southern tip of Tuscany. At this point, we weren’t expecting much. As we approached this small house, tucked away inside was an older woman cooking and preparing lunch, the fragrances were swirling around us. As we were gestured to sit, our “driver” animated with a few words in between that this was her mother, and she was the head of the kitchen. We should mention, we clearly don’t look like we belong here, and obviously had no idea what we were in store for. But then, dish after dish, with every bite, we began to understand that this wasn’t just a meal in a faraway place, prepared by a stranger… it was familiar, it was human. We sat there, with only one worded sentences leaving our mouths. And yet, we began to become family, pulling out her phone, pointing to baby photos of who we learned was our “driver’s” daughter and our cook’s grandchild. We stayed for hours, and they ended up catering our wedding… Until this day I still don’t know what I ate, but I’ll never forget the feeling I had in that kitchen…”
The idea that we can ultimately connect with anyone through the universality of emotion and gestures alone, is astonishing. The world starts to feel a little bit smaller if you think about it that way. The divisiveness we’ve become accustomed to sort of, well, dissipates. And that is worth sharing, that’s worth the screen time, it’s worth one hundred percent of your attention.