Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” and “Eating Animals.” If the movie script is true to his writing, Foer’s prose pushes the boundaries of the hyperbolic – but it’s a pass we give him for his lyrical, human approach. “How Not to Be Alone,” is an op-Ed piece worth reading, not because he escapes his rhetorical habits, but because his truisms on technology can be our conscience, if we let them.
He writes, “Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat” and quotes Simone Weil to write, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. I remember that “connected” actually means to be “united” or “joined.” Even at it’s most tenuous, when the term simply suggests being “linked,” to be truly connected belies a greater degree of responsibility, presence, and considered action than mere social “networking” or making/having “contacts.”
As a part-time performance artist who thinks a lot about how we emote (or don’t) in public space and why, my favorite quote from Foer is this: “Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion.”