Sunday, March 12, 2006

Making the Connection

You've just gotten off from work and decide to stop at the local market. After picking out a few items for dinner, you hurry to the express lane for checkout. As you stand in line waiting, you start humming a tune from an album cut of a music group from long ago. The sales clerk -- who you've seen countless times before, but have never spoken to -- looks at you and says, "Isn't that such and such a song from such and such an album?" Yes, you say. "Oh, I just love that song," the clerk beams.

In this brief exhange, you've established a connection with another person. Said connection can be short-term or lasting, but it is the kind of connection that holds meaning.

We make these kinds of connections frequently. We find out that someone knows a friend of a friend of a friend. We discover that someone else shares our love of cooking, hang gliding or botany. We delight in learning that a complete stranger loves the same restaurant we frequent or the same vacation destination we dream of.

More often than not, such occurrences happen completely by accident. There we are, minding our own business, when someone reaches out and a connection is made.

One of the themes I harp on here at RT is that we humans share far more in common than the so-called differences that we believe separate us. We too often view people by arbitrary labels and fail to look for the connections that bind us. Instead of seeing a fellow human being, we see gender, race, ethnicity, and a slew of other arbitrary distinctions.

Both Lao Tzu and Jesus urged people to experience life like a young baby. Babies do not see a Jewish man, an Arab woman, a tall white person or a short Latino. They see individual faces and reach out to try to make a connection with whomever crosses their path.

Unfortunately, as we grow to adulthood, we lose this ability. Instead of trying to connect with others, we erect walls to separate ourselves. In doing so, we lose the opportunity to forge lasting connections.

In essence, we create our own hostile world.


  1. Trey,

    I think this is because we live in a competitive society, where everybody wants to be the winner.
    As you said, it's sometimes astonishing how and where we meet strangers, start a little conversation with them and than seperate to never see eachother again. I have the same experience, especially since I've started working in a disco to pay for my appartment. Lots of people come to say hello, chat a little and then disappear in the night :)

    If we can ban out the need to win, like some native-american tribes and other "simple" cultures, we will see that it is quite possible to live among eachother in peace and that we will meet more people. People who interest us, who want to exchange their thoughts, emotions, ... with us and then continue along their path, without feeling ashamed.

    I can keep on shouting about our bad, bad society, but as you stated, it's the small things that make the journey worthwile.

  2. Trey, you're right we do make these brief little connections in many ways. As a parent, you can do this on a children's play ground, while your kids play with kids they've never met before, you end up in conversation with their parents. Sometimes you share problems about child-rearing, or the joys of parenthood, or simply about why your kids don't notice that the temperature has dropped and the wind chill factor has reached -10 degrees. And then it's time to go home before you start to suffer from hypothermia and/or frostbite! And you will likely never meet those people again.

    The human connection frequently gets made in the oddest of ways. That's why us Brits talk about the weather so much - it's a way of connecting/comparing/starting a conversation that may be brief but that connects us with other people.

    I'm enjoying reading your blog.

  3. Bert,
    I agree with you! Our society stresses competition over cooperation and then we wonder why no one can seem to get along.

    Little Dragon,
    Thank you for the remark about parenting and children. My wife and I are a childless couple (by choice) and so I often forget the simple lessons we can learn by observing children up close and personal.

    I've added Wanderer Amongst Strangers to my growing list of Taoist Links on the right side bar.

    By the way, how's the weather there? :-)

  4. Trey,

    I'm very fortunate to live in an area where you can easily speak to someone on the street or in a shop and not be suspected of trying to mug them. I've frequently made connections with people. People do have a lot more in common than they think - you just have to 'connect'.


  5. Annie,

    I think people don't want to connect because they are afraid they might make a bad statement, one-liner, whatever.... I don't care if a girl comes up to me and says that my left eye is bigger than my right. I know it's true, so I'd rather find it funny instead of insulting.
    "I don't know what to talk about" is another thing I hear a lot. Who cares what you talk about, even the most dull and boring things can become interesting, as long as you do it with a fun twist. It's not always about what you say, but how you say it. You can talk about the weather, for instance, saying that it was bad weather or you can say that you had to drag your legs across the street because of the rain, cold, ... and that you are now exhausted, in dying need of a drink and forgot your intellect at home, so you are unable to say interesting things. It's just a (bad) example, but come on, is it that hard? :)

  6. I was going to blog about this, still might, but I wanted to chime in on this issue of competition.

    I've been preaching against competition, rather than cooperation, as a foundation for society for years, and usually I get some scary Social Darwinism in response from competition apologists.

    Yet, I recently read two articles (Article One, Article Two) in Ode Magazine, which throw a wrench into my arguments.

    I'd be interested in hearing how folks can reconcile, or not, the problems with competition with the benefits of sports argued in these two articles.

  7. Howard,
    Team sports are built upon the foundation of both competition AND cooperation. The team competes to win, but must cooperate within the team to reach the goal.

    However, we could just as easily have team sports that only sought cooperation as the goal. Instead of 2 or more teams squaring off to see which can claim the title of winner or #1, we could have the goal as being the greatest good created by all the teams as a whole.

    Marx once said that we too often accept as intrinsic that which is temporal. If we've grown up under a particular set of concepts, we too often accept such concepts as being inherent in human society. In today's world, many will argue that the concept of private property is a God-given right bestowed on human civilization. Yet, in an earlier epoch, the very idea of private property was vulgar and foreign.

    The same can be argued in terms of the marriage of sport and competition. We've grown up believing these two are inseperable. They don't have to be.

  8. Trey

    The weather here in East Anglia isn't so bad, although we have had our fair share of what we call out here 'lazy' winds - these are the ones that can't be bothered to go round you but cut straight on through!! ;-)))

    Thanks for visiting my blog and posting. I've updated earlier on today, please drop by.

  9. don't get me started on the weather in Belgium. A couple of days ago, we had -17° Celcius (don't know how much Fahrenheit that is), unbelievable .... Spring is about to begin and we have snow almost every day.


Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.