12/20/2013 12:47 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

The Best Free Gift You Can Give This Holiday Season

"The Phone Stack" game. But I'll get to that in a moment...


It's what we're all after.

But we mistake being "connected" (through technology) with real connection.

So we keep searching for it in things. Gadgets. Tweets. Status updates. Instagrams. Pics. Video streams. And the more we keep reaching for those things to connect us, the less we actually feel. Period.

Connection comes from being with people. And it doesn't come from needing anything specifically from another person based on ego desires.

It's simply part of our tribal, communal DNA.

When I was in New York the other week, I had an experience on the subway that reminded me of this connection -- no matter how fleeting -- we're all seeking. A woman missed the subway by a few seconds as the doors closed and I looked at her as if to say, "You'll get the next one," and we smiled. Innocent enough.

Connection. But then it got really interesting. She kept staring at me and I began to assume all the things I thought she was thinking about me. From wanting to have my baby to mistaking my innocent smile for an invitation of marriage. So the experience turned into this weird, uncomfortable, intimate, surprising, uplifting, human interaction with a stranger. It lasted only for a couple of moments and as the train pulled away from the station I looked back at her one last time and a sense of sadness of the impermanence of all moments overcame me. I wondered who she was. If she was happy. How life had been treating her. I'll never know. And yet this experience created great meaning.


Connections aren't a commodity that will expire or can only be redeemed with people who are close to us. As you keep connecting with all of humanity, you also, simultaneously, begin to expand your circle of friends and family. So connection has a rippling effect. But this requires us to connect with others beyond our comfort zones.

Keep expanding your circle. That's the job of the artist. It's not to connect only in your work -- which has a connective force anyway -- but it's to take that deep, human connection we experience in our work out into the world.

Share it.

Technology creates robot hearts.

Connection actually allows us to feel them.

So this holiday season when you're sitting down for meals with friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, anyone -- give the gift of connection -- have everyone put their smartphones in a stack in the center of the table. Over the course of the meal no one is allowed to pick up their phone, even if it buzzes or rings. (Optional: If someone can't resist picking up their phone, he or she is responsible for picking up the check!)

Happy Holidays!