By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
EARLY morning past midnight, I received a call from Luz Maria Lopez, a friend from Puerto Rico. Luz and I met at a 2016 literary conference in India and maintained our friendship since that time. We have occasional video chats that lasted for thirty minutes at most, often about linking up poetry initiatives and sporadic calls whenever we want to share personal things that occur in our lives. This time, the video-chat lasted for more than two hours, which I have never done in my whole life.
She appeared in sporty clothes in her home-office, while I, barely out of bed, was in my sleeping clothes. I combed my hair with my hands and squinted several times to get a clearer view of her. We talked about many things, especially how to survive the current situation and how we can maximize existing modes of interaction with our various publics.
“This pandemic has changed our lives so much. We cannot travel without getting scared. Everything is online.” She adjusts her eyeglasses, and then the screen, and smiles.
“Yes, I miss traveling too. I am very tired of online meetings. I am very tired of looking at faces glued on the screen. I want to shake hands, hug, feel the presence.”
“And there are so many fakes on FB. They do not share anything. I just deleted ten friends whom I have never interacted in five or more years.”
“I also deleted those who appear to be what they are not, those who seem to be concerned so much that you ‘Like” their posts, the pushy ones.”
One is never sure about the authenticity of the persons or the posts. It becomes necessary to countercheck with the photos, with search engines and other means of verification. Authenticity refers to an evaluation of truth, sincerity and genuineness. It is important to open lines to “know” a person. In establishing the authenticity desired, it is imperative to use hindsight, exercise insight and develop foresight.
Given the language barriers and the hilarious translations on Google, it becomes more difficult to discern who are the authentic ones, based on the content of the posts. So many take pride in having their poetry translated in so many languages by people whose credentials and linguistic capabilities have not been established. I entrust translations to very few friends: Nizar Sartawi (Arabic), Luz Maria Lopez (Spanish), Ute Margaret Saine and Minello Saporito (Italian). These friends painstakingly discuss the meaning of every word used in the poem, the thread of the verses, in the context of the culture and the temperament of the poet. That way, a sense of authenticity is established as to the “voice” and the sentiment of the poem.
The internet brings communication as fast as we can think, but cannot be depended upon to provide the authenticity experienced by a physical encounter where it is possible to exercise insight based on a combined assessment of gestures, eye movements, body language, and spontaneous exchange of words, wit and humor and other unwitting giveaways to character, sophistication and breeding.
Further, I would like to associate my perception of authenticity with a reading of the palm, the shape of the fingers, the depth of the eyes, lip movements, the gait, and most importantly, the vibration that is exchanged in the silence.
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