What do you get when you combine an eventful bike ride from Oklahoma to California with a tribute to one of the most influential novels of the 20th century? One helluva documentary! Bikes of Wrath (BOW) (based on the classic John Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath) follows the hilarious 30-day long, 2,600 km journey of 5 Melbourne-based creatives, who seek to find meaning in adventure and restore the lost art of deep and meaningful conversation post-social-media cleanse. To bring you up to speed, Bikes of Wrath strives to bring people together to consciously converse in a modern day context – something we should explore further. So let’s do exactly that!
Watch the killer trailer here!
“Listening is a dying art. We hardly listen to understand, we only listen to refute or reply.”
Okay listen up, Steven R. Covey’s research on the art of listening rightfully expresses how conversing has nowadays become more about intense, ego-fuelled debate than it is about being open to new perspectives – and this could not be any more true! Now, now I know what you’re thinking, communication is what makes the world go round. So the thought of conversation ever becoming a lost and dying art form seems a little far-fetched. But what if I told you that according to writer of The Dance of Conversation, Judy Apps, the natural ebb and flow of conversing has become short-lived. She says the convenience of sharing things in bite-sized statuses has led to our incessant talking over one another without being neither interested nor present in what anyone else actually has to say.
Our sensitive and disinterested selves prefer to live in our own comfortable cocoons rather than challenge the discourse and indulge in intent listening. Moral panic or not, the RUOK reports that Australians including myself are guilty of spending on average about 46 hours a week (outside work hours) looking at various screens. While I’m not together enough to be spending all this time part-listening, part-devicing, it does beg the question whether the convenience of it all is inadvertently replacing human relationships.
According to Forbes writer, Donna Sapolin, us younger generations genuinely do desire more meaningful and deeper face-to-face interactions that go beyond shallow chit-chat. However, it’s been said that we struggle to let that guard of ours down because we’ve spent years putting up barriers around what conversations are socially acceptable. We overthink too much (like is hi being too forward?). In a time where we have the most tangible connection, we live in an ironic digital-era that desensitises us from ‘unprovoked’ dialogue. This has apparently made us really lonely – like really, really lonely to the point where 82% of Australians are feeling socially isolated.
Finding our most authentic, individual and vulnerable selves
Projects such as Humans of New York, Touching Strangers, and Free-Convo each bring connection and belonging to public and private spaces. Even closer to home, Meet My Eye is a newfound public experiment seeking to forge connection through the vulnerability and intimidation of eye contact…looking deep into a stranger’s eyes…in silence…for longer than 10 minutes (good luck trying not to laugh). Critics like Jasmine Erdener from the University of Pennsylvania believe online universality oversimplifies those real experiences when it becomes too manufactured and forced. Supporting Jasmine’s idea is of course none other than the Bikes of Wrath in their ode to real human connection, random acts of kindness, genuine dialogue, and strangers coming together to help people – my faith in humanity is officially restored.
So is conversation really dying?
Well depending on how you look at it, conversation in this day and age has well and truly redefined itself. Whether or not it’s ‘lost’ is open to interpretation. To me conversation is not that awkward small talk with your colleague or the attempts to seem interested in your Uber driver’s day, but those touching chats that are both parts caring and genuine. Scholar Stephanie Ballard in her analysis of Humans of New York regards these connections as a way of carrying the art of memorable conversation through language, identity and the meaning of life itself.
“We need to have the stickiness, the gooeyness, the conflict that comes with engaging in actual human relationships” – Pete Shmigel
There’s always a “what’s in it for me” that comes with the fluidity of impromptu conversation. While I hate to be the one to say it, convenience has offered an easy way out of fostering real-world relationships. Generation-I-love-the-sound-of-my-own-voice, myself included, fears being forgotten and holds onto too many superficial relationships for the sake of doing so. So ask yourself this: when was the last time you actually told someone how you really felt – free of judgment. Or perhaps think back to a time where you made the effort to be 100% present, phone-less and in the moment. Did you explore deeper issues than just your day at work? Mm yeah didn’t think so.
So let’s give a round of applause for Bikes of Wrath for disrupting the mundane of convenient connection with their conduit for music, literature and adventure – taking it back to the good ol’ days of quality conversations.
Also published on Medium.