Priya Parker on Connection in Covid – SXSW 2021 Keynote [Video]

Author, conflict resolution extraordinaire, and gatherer Priya Parker has risen as a champion of face-to-face experiences. Obviously, this year was a little bit different. Parker sits down with her husband, editor-at-large for Time magazine Anand Giridharadas, for a forthright Keynote conversation about connection amidst chaos.

Following the success of Parker's book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters in 2018, the podcast gathering was born and planned to launch in the spring of 2020. When gathering became a buzzword associated with fear and risk, the podcast was adapted to Together Apart, a resource in isolation – addressing one question per episode on how to stay connected in a state of crises.

"We are in a moment of national group, family, and system grappling. And grappling done well asks the fundamental questions...and the fixing is extraordinarily messy."

The couple converse on moments of clarity and power that occurred during the pandemic. Looking at protests from the murder of George Floyd and on, Parker reflects on the sacrifice of protestors' health and safety for the importance of gathering to raise their voices together. Parker remembers people asking, “If I don’t go out on the streets for this then what is my body for?” The two mark the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality as a striking human demonstration amid the backdrop of a global pandemic – one that forced internal reckonings both nationally, locally, and at home.

Change is inevitable moving forward. Some change will be a long-awaited breath and some change will be harder to know how to handle. Parker ponders on the country "reopening" and wonders how we will react to change when it comes? She reminds us that grief comes in different forms and comes out in unexpected ways.

"I think there will be moments in those moments of ecstasy that we will connect with our grief because we are safe enough to allow for that grief to come out."

Parker says what comes next will be an explosion of pleasure, plain, joy, and most of all a true appreciation for gathering.

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By Hailey Hess