Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Recently, I celebrated a birthday which reminded several people to contact me. In these disjointed times, it’s easy to conclude we are islands, adrift on our tectonic plates in a rocky sea. Ancient maps depict the seas as fraught with monsters and other dangers. In truth, life is fraught with hazards—physical and emotional. That we must face them alone is the fiction.
Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of these divisive times lies in the perception people are creating and defending that we belong on separate islands, that essentially (as Joseph Conrad wrote), “We live as we dream…alone.” They point to superficial differences as their evidence. But they don’t comprehend the essential human-ness, the common ancestry, we all share. In spite of the wars for resources and power to which we fall prey periodically, we rely on one another for brute strength. We rely on one another for inventions. Workers build and rebuild nations. Leaders are supposed to be the organization folk.
Isolated in our homes or behind masks to avoid contamination, many of us imagined a hostile world outside and we wanted to find somebody to blame. Ask anyone who has spent an extended period in solitary confinement; we need one another (or memories of the voices of one another) to stay not merely healthy but also sane. This may be the entry point for hatred against the well-educated. Learning how to learn independently has been proven to be a safeguard against the damage of solitary confinement. It helps us understand that wealth doesn’t necessarily make people more generous or kind-hearted. Money rarely trickles down. Scientifically certified vaccines and masks save lives. And being alternative or openly religious doesn’t necessarily make you right.
Research clearly shows that people who are well connected to strangers, friends, family, pets, and/or faith are more resilient to insults such as disease or early death. The calls, greeting cards, and texts that filled my birthday fed me far better than my birthday food splurges, and I like to think my responses buoyed whoever was on the other end of the call, as well. Like tree roots, we reach out to one another for advice and strength. Religions, skin colors, traditions, etc. don’t divide us. We divide us. Apple TV treated my husband and me to a showing of the uplifting Broadway musical COME FROM AWAY, the true story of some of the thousands of people on the 38 airline flights that were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada when the skies were ordered cleared after the attacks of 9-11. Gander and the tiny towns in the vicinity took in more people than they had in their populations, fed and clothed them, and found them warm beds. They cared for 17 pets that included a bonobo monkey in labor. Local people welcomed strangers into their homes. Accommodations were made for an array of languages, cultures, and religions. And the Newfoundlanders wouldn’t accept payment when all was said and done. They did what they did out of caring. Thankful passengers from around the world later gifted them with scholarship money and more.
What the Newfoundlanders did stands as proof that we can do better. They countered conflicts with silly celebrations. We have only to decide better is desirable. The friendships forged in those few days extend across the globe to today. Connections make us healthier inside and out. Yes, better is possible if we challenge old priorities and care for one another.