Category Archives: technology

Fresh Point of View: Rael San Fratello


Rael San Fratello


Virginia San Fratello gives a talk on the work at Princeton School of Architecture:

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In the Realm of the Intangibles

Realm of the Intangibles

My phone broke last month. Somehow, it got fried or shorted-out. The screen went completely white, and I have no idea why. Instead of taking it in to my usual service provider, I decided to get a new provider, and a new phone number. This was approximately a month ago, and believe it or not, the new phone has been sitting on my dresser. Untouched. I have not turned it on, I have not made a single call. I barely know the phone is there. I also haven’t taken the time to give everyone my new number. This isn’t because I don’t want them to have the new number, or looking forward to hearing from them in the future. It’s only because I don’t like having a phone, or being conscious of my phone, or talking on my phone. At some point I will turn it on, and begin to use it. I’m just in no rush to do it, and I don’t even feel inclined to.

I’ve never been able to explain to people why I love silence so much, or why I’m never lonely when alone. Whenever I do, I seem to come across in way that makes me feel like I’ve failed them, and failed myself (for lack of the vocabulary to share my deepest feelings or preferences with them). It’s very difficult for me to describe something that feels beyond words. The only description I’ve ever heard, that comes eerily close to how I feel, and how I like to live, was an answer that Junot Diaz gave during a lecture about himself and his work. Someone asked about his writing process. This was his answer:

“I wake up early. I write early. I write before I speak. Which is to say, as soon as I have a conversation, if I have to answer the phone, if anyone asks me anything that makes me have to make a decision — I’m immediately out of whatever I need to be in. I guess part of what I need to write [work] — and most people don’t need this — I need to sink deeply into this human space, outside of all these other considerations. As soon as I come up into the social space — the social space where you have to answer questions, were you have to sort of think about things — I’m out. I’ve broken the connection to whatever I need to connect with.”

For me, I’m not a writer, and my ‘thing’ is not necessarily to write. My passion, my life’s work, is to be. My life is best when I feel effortless and aware. When I feel the wind beckon, gently grazing my skin, or when I feel cool microscopic droplets of moisture in the air as I breathe, unseen, yet felt by my sensitive nostrils, or when I’m counting beads, pinching and plucking them out of the cupped palm of my hand, and I feel the cushy softness of my own skin. This is what I live for — for the subtle, quiet, free, and often missed moments in life. What it means to be a human…. being. I might be a human doing, but I am present to being as I am doing. This is why I say effortless and aware. Because it takes a certain amount of stepping back, of letting go, and getting present. This allows for a perspective or experience of the whole. A witnessing of sorts. A witnessing of how all the parts come together, and of how mystical and magical life is.

Now can you imagine? As you are sensing and receiving the gifts that come only from being in the moment — the phone rings. It startles you. You stop what you are doing and leap up to answer it (mostly to stop it from ringing). Quickly you discover the caller has the wrong number, and you take a few seconds to let them know. After being startled by the phone and the caller, it’s hard to go back to the train of thought that you were previously in. It rings again, after only an hour, and this time, it’s someone you know. They are rambling — stuck in the past, projecting a fearful future, reciting a long list of personal complaints that revolve mostly around gripes about other people. After being on the phone with them, listening and consoling for well over an hour, you begin to settle back into where you previously were in your day. You now decide it’s a good time to take a break to eat something. You prepare your meal, and finally, with eyes wide and hands ready, you happily dive into your lunch. Mmmm… it tastes wonderful, and it’s joyously messy. Ding, ding, ding, ding! The phone rings again. You put your food down and wipe off your hands. This time, the phone rang only to let you know there is a new voicemail message waiting for you.

For some people, these interruptions, or phone interactions, would be a welcomed break from their day. For me it’s the opposite. I don’t want a break from my day. I want to be fully in it, as it is in front of me (in my presence): naturally bare, simple and mundane, yet at the same time, naturally embellished, complex and spiritual. This is what I live for, but it’s hard to justify that type of ‘living’ in this world. It feels like a lost art. I often feel singled out or alone in my appreciation for it. Regardless of it being unpopular or unwanted by most people, I will continue to make time and space in my life to fully appreciate it. I will make time for being on the phone and not being on the phone — but my preference will always be more time off than on.


Filed under mindfulness, technology