There are about seven billion people in the world but as a society today, we still feel great loneliness. We may have hundreds of Facebook friends but our true, close friendships are decreasing. In fact, statistically one in ten people say they have no close friendships at all. In the bustling cities where everyone is always busy, people may see each other’s faces and even know each other for several years but it’s safe to say that most of them practically have no human connection at all. So when something happens, they have no one to turn to for help or support and suddenly, they feel that loneliness and seclusion. New Yorkers, for example, are surrounded by seven million people everyday but a majority of them have never even met the neighbors on their own apartment floor. After a long day of work, the most common sound echoing down the halls is the slamming of doors followed by the empty metal clang of locks turning. Rural areas, however, have a stronger sense of community. When someone has a problem, there’s a greater sense of comfort that you can ask your neighbors for help. But regardless of whether you’re a city rat or a country mouse, we all have a responsibility for each other whether we know each other or not.
But how can we have a responsibility to people we don’t even know? How can we connect to closed doors and the unknown faces hiding behind them?
We are all the same human beings.
There is no need for formal introductions. we all have the same human face and when we see each other we need to recognize that they are just like us — a part of us. You don’t have to know them to smile or say “hello”. Think of the times you’ve stood in an elevator and smiled or spoken warmly to the person waiting there with you. Sometimes your bid for human connection is met with confusion, but most often you’re greeted by a relieved smile. It’s as if a trance was broken and you’re both acknowledging your truest bond: human.
We’re bred in such a materialistic culture that our way of life has no concept of friendship or love anymore; we just work, twenty-four hours a day, like a machine, and eventually we become part of that large moving machine. We’ve come to know this as “modern living” and, as common as it has become, we’ve forgotten that it’s not normal. But how we are, who we are, and how our humanity is, are bound up by one another. We need to recognize our interdependence on every level — socially, personally, sub-atomically. We are all born and die dependent on others, but we don’t recognize our own interdependence in our lifetime between. Stresses about nationality, religion, and color are brought on by personal differences that are ultimately secondary — and frankly, unimportant — so why complicate things? If we just bring our minds back down to the fundamentals of being human, we can find compassion even for our enemies; the kind of we’ve believed to be impossible.
But in reality, we all have the same potential for affection. Even scientists are now discovering that our basic human nature is compassionate. The problem lies in childhood; children go to schools where they are not taught to nurture these human values so as we grow older, our basic human potential becomes dormant.
So awaken that potential from its prolonged hibernation. If we acknowledge our interdependence, we can help each other reach it again and we will find the compassion we never could for those we never thought we would.
Let’s start by sharing a smile.
DAY 19. Love, Ro