Our search for connection was something that has been on my mind for a while. It started with some books I was reading when I noticed how many had the words “I” and “You” in the title: Titles such as I See You Everywhere, The Last Time I Saw You, and I Still Dream about You. They made me wonder how much we really know or see anybody; otherwise, why so much striving for it?
Over the last week, a series of seemingly unconnected experiences raised this issue for me again. The first was an event I attended in support of some friends who have suffered a great loss. Afterward, I realized that I have a sort of intimacy with them now that I probably was not on a trajectory to experience if their lives had not been irrevocably altered. At first that intimacy feels awkward, because we have everyone neatly categorized into family, work friends, college friends, parents of our kids’ friends, neighbors. How often do we run from these moments when relationships have a paradigm shift? There’s an instinct to turn away, go back to that comfortable corner where I didn’t know their pain so well. But I can’t, I won’t – I’m connected now.
The next evening, I attended Shabbat services where the Torah reading had to do with separating “unclean” people (such as lepers, menstruating women). In addition, the guest speaker of the evening was there to talk about gays in the military and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I was reminded yet again of how we separate ourselves from what is uncomfortable, unfamiliar or frightening. We make it into “I” and “You”, instead of “Us”.
Finally, on Sunday, I went to see the new documentary, “I Am”. I thought it was going to be about values, and it is, but it was more about connections. I was fascinated by some of the science that shows how we are “hard-wired” to feel empathy, compassion and connection. So what has gone so wrong to make us so afraid of connection sometimes? Why do we turn away – and how can we change that? One of the most intriguing parts of the film had to do with an organization called HeartMath, which has done a lot of research about how the heart communicates with the rest of our bodies. Tapping into the intuitive power of the heart can calm us, change our perspective, and help us feel more fulfilled. The heart also connects us bioelectromagnetically to other people. Maybe if we learn to focus more on the heart instead of the head, we can meet people with love, rather than fear.