Keeping Connections Shiny
One of the things I miss from before the pace of time increased exponentially is having time to connect with people, to keep in touch with family and maintain friendships, to engage in casual conversation longer than “How was your weekend?” or “Have a good day.” At first, email seemed to often be an adequate substitute for phone calls, slow mail letters, and actual in-person conversations. Now, many people (myself included) seem to have little time to engage in email, resorting instead to the shorter medium of texts. Essential information can be communicated that way, but the art of conversation is lost, and neither email nor text can replace a visit or a shared activity. Accelerated activity seems to be undermining the ability to perceive and maintain connections.
What we often do not see is that we are all connected, whether or not we pay attention to or maintain these connections. Even the most reclusive of us has them. They are a theme in literature, a central understanding in mysticism and most religions, and a basic assumption in community. The Native American expression “all my relations” emphasizes the connection between all the dwellers of the planet Earth. We connect as we produce and consume, nurture and are nurtured, play, grow, participate in the activities of life itself. Through memory, we maintain contact with those who have passed. We are connected to each other and to the Earth. We may neglect our connections and allow our perception of them to weaken, but we cannot be totally free of them. Research shows that the healthiest and happiest of us have strong social connections. In a manner of speaking, through our connections we give life energy to each other.
It benefits us to keep our connections clear and open. This is especially true now, in this era where the speed of things leads us to neglect even those human connections that most benefit us. Human contact demands that we pause and pay attention. The challenge of the times is that maintaining our connections requires that we cease hurrying and set aside a slower paced space of time while simultaneously time itself seems to have become quite difficult to find. Although it may seem impossible to nourish connections in a milieu which requires that most available time be devoted to one form of work or another, and in which things like paid vacations are rapidly diminishing for many, it is possible to find moments in which the small steps that keep us connected may be taken.
For example, words of appreciation to family members or coworkers create a glow in the recipient and reflect back to us the positive energy we have extended. The same is true for small compliments given to strangers. These are things which are done in the moment, and do not require reserving large sections of time. The reverie of remembrance can take a little longer but connects us with that which we are remembering. Thinking about one who is not present connects us to that person. What takes longer are the things we all know need doing – taking the time to visit or host, stopping the busyness to sit and listen, share an activity which is not necessarily work, write letters and emails, send cards and acknowledgements, volunteer to help in ways which are personally connective, reach out to strangers, be open to communication and feedback – we are aware of these. The challenge is not that we are ignorant of them, but that doing these things is difficult in a socio-economic setting which emphasizes speed and production.
I personally find it frustrating to be faced with the choice of doing what needs doing or acquiescing to needed sleep. I do not like the choice between too much time spent working to earn the money which supports me in a consumer society, and taking time to visit family and friends, or engaging in social ritual (attending weddings, Christmas traditions, birthdays, holidays, to name a few). That these have become challenging perhaps makes them even more important to do. It is good to remember times in which productive activity could be balanced more equitably with social interaction, but not useful to dwell on that. The balance people find now will not be a simple retreat to the past, but a new adaptation to what now exists. Perhaps the growing structure of intentional community will provide a model, a model in which work, leisure and decisions are shared and human interaction is more readily available. Until then, it is still necessary to keep connections open and shiny, by whatever means one can. Our human connections are too important to lose.
May we all cherish and appreciate each other and keep open our channels of communication.