Southern Foodways Alliance/flickr
Marshall, a dear friend, just wrote me that he recently attended a writers' conference in Carmel, and he asked if I knew one of the speakers from San Francisco and if I was familiar with a Southern writer who attended. As small as the world is, I did not know either, but knew of them both. What became most interesting to me is he added this definition of the word "phatic," and I was instantly intrigued:
"Phatic" was coined in the early 20th century by people who apparently wanted to label a particular quirk of human communication—the tendency to use certain rote phrases (such as the standard greeting "how are you?") merely to establish a social connection without sharing any actual information.
Reading this, I realized I did not know that when someone greets me with "how are you?" they might not really want to know how I am. The purpose is to merely establish a connection without sharing information. I can tell you that more often than not, I tell them exactly how I am. I am happy to say that overall I love my life—I can say that with such honesty.
Granted, there are days that are not as good as most, and I have my share of daily interruptions and annoyances. On occasion a family member will worry me or even let me down, but overall no real complaints. Much of what makes my life so great is how my life is so open for people to wander into it. For example, my friend who is consistent with keeping in touch and sent me this mind-stirring quote found his way to my kitchen door about four years ago to check into one of my guest rooms for the weekend, and within a short time a bond was made. Possibly by one of us just asking "how are you?".