Thursday, January 5, 2012
We humans are social creatures. But you would never know it from the all the ways we distance ourselves from each other. We keep each other at arms’ length. We divide ourselves into factions to ensure that we (OK, we really are just talking about our own individual selves, but ‘we’ sounds better) are taken care of. Us and them. You and me. Me and that other girl over there.
But unless you are a hermit on the mount or sociopathic lone wolf in the forest, you simply cannot get away. We build great societies. We construct vast public spaces. We encourage and celebrate our coming together in numbers large and small. Our saddest stories are of lost love and betrayed relations. We are made to be together. And I’d hazard to guess that both the hermit and the lone wolf are delighted when a seeker trudges up the mountain or into the deep forest for a bit of advice and tea.
But we want complete control over the means and participation of our relations. We want to say how much togetherness is sufficient, and where the impassable lines lie. We want to determine which parts of ourselves we share and withhold. We are, after all, unique, singular beings. We want connections, but we do not want to lose our sovereignty. We do not want to lose ourselves.
Yet while all those personal and societal rules of engagement help us to avoid offense and keep us on the right side of the line between good conduct and bad form, they also hinder our ability to understand each other. It is difficult to engage with another when you are worried about getting too close, staring too long, speaking too intimately. Better to demur when true understanding may require a depth of involvement best defined as ‘entanglement.’
Yeah. That state where our connections become hopelessly intertwined, snarled, knotted. Messy. (Gasp!) But really. How do you truly know someone unless you get close enough to smell them?
So I say: Let’s get involved! And not just on the socio-political-macro save the planet/save the world level. No – let’s get involved with each other. On a personal level. One on one. Down in the nitty-gritty where personal battlements are erected and reinforced. Down where our underbellies are vulnerable to claws. Let’s conquer our shyness and dance with the stranger. Let’s disengage our sensibilities and talk about politics and religion. Let’s belly up to the bar, invade each others’ personal space, and ask intimate questions that are none of our business. Let’s get our faces slapped. Let’s call each other out. Let’s laugh and cry, shout and sneer, glare and wink. Let’s talk long into the night. Let’s get so close that we can smell each others’ breath. Let’s get entangled like Romans at an orgy. Let’s get down on our haunches and stare into each others’ souls until we understand.
After all, we’re only human.