This post is dedicated to my father, Dr. Leo Thomas “Tom” Rozum, who passed away Thursday, August 27, 2015. May we all be mindful of creating meaningful opportunities to connect with one another during our short time on this earth. It’s never too late to reach out and tell people you love them.
Feeling isolated? Blue? Out of sorts? Perhaps those feelings are a cue to take a look at where you are investing your time and energy. If you’re shutting yourself away from people – actual people, not visages on TV or the internet – this could be the root of your discontent. The trappings of a modern world netted with technology can make us forget how important is to have face-time with one another. But these real connections matter greatly.
“When we’re connected to others, we become better people.”
~Randy Pausch, ‘The Last Lecture’
Put your greatest energy into personal relationships. Listen to your passions rather than focusing on material concerns. Connect and engage mindfully with living, breathing people in your community and beyond. Risk being vulnerable and show others your authentic self.
People need to touch, see, and read each other directly. As social beings, we need to engage regularly in connection opportunities which utilize our entire repertoire of human cues.
There are invisible threads which connect us to one another. Grasp them! You are are interconnected with every living being whether you realize it or not. Get to know your web-mates and cultivate relationships of depth. Your health and happiness depend upon doing so.
You can choose to see yourself as a lone, slender thread. Or you can let your inner light illuminate the other threads which are in intricate, tender connection with your own.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa
Do you see yourself as part of one big group of several smaller ones? Are your boundaries loose or tight?
“In this painting I used different colours to represent the different groups of people in the world. On the left side of the painting, I tried to resemble the world in my eyes. Groups all separated by different things, with the black lines and white words representing those things. On the right I painted what peace would mean to me, all the groups being mixed together, with the happy and peaceful colours around everyone.”
~Shannon Pennifold, 14 years, Red Deer, Canada
It’s funny how, in this journey of life, even though we may begin at different times and places, our paths cross with others so that we may share our love, compassion, observations, and hope.
We all yearn to be known and valued, to belong, to find meaning together and to work together. Poet and spiritual teacher John O’Donohue reminds us that:
“Belonging is related to longing. If you hyphenate belonging it yields a lovely axiom for spiritual growth. Be your longing. Longing is a precious instinct in the soul. Where you belong should always be worthy of your dignity.”
“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.”
Don’t forget to be thankful for and to create opportunities to share stories.
“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe. ” – Neil Gaiman
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize.
“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
“Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” (Chapter 22, Howards End)
“Mature as he was, she might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born, and alights on the highest curve, glowing against the gray, sober against the fire.”
– From chapter 22, Howards End (1910)
— E.M. Forster, Howards End
Are you familiar with the concept of Ubuntu? It’s truly lovely and I reflect on its meaning often.
Ubuntu is a synonym of humaneness; it involves having a spirit of caring and community, harmony and hospitality, respect and responsiveness with others. Ubuntu is an African philosophy that provides an understanding of the human being in relation with the world.
There is no English equivalent to the word Ubuntu. The Nguni word from South Africa refers to the capacity to express compassion, justice, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building, maintaining and strengthening community. It is about the self being so rooted in the community, that your personal identity is defined by what you give to the community. ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am’ is a good example of the ‘self-in-community’ foundation that gives rise to sayings in Zulu, such as ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ — ‘It is through others that one attains selfhood.’
When we acknowledge how much we depend on each other, we can rise above our relatively small differences.
September 2010, acrylic paint. Done for “The Peace Project” art exhibit sponsored by The Whole 9. For this piece, symbolism substituted for realism. The inspiration came from a story in which people chained together at a banquet table must cooperate or starve.
Have you lost an appreciation for the art of conversation? Do you set aside adequate time for it?
If not, make efforts to spend some time with a trusted friend. It will do your spirit a world of good!
And remember to get outside in nature which is so nurturing for the soul! Converse with nature and other humans at the same time and find yourself lifted in a harmonious way.
Many people on their deathbeds lament that they did not spend enough time with their friends. Prevent similar regrets by cherishing friendships as so deserved. And build new ones with diverse people who add vibrancy, richness and interest to your friendship bouquet.
‘Friendship’ by Ricky Chou
“It says we met in this world, and we can enjoy each other… Because in this world we are the same. You are Western, I am Oriental. But we met and we can enjoy each other. The fish in the painting are different, but they are the same. They don’t know each other but they can enjoy each other together. In the whole world everybody is strangers, but it doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. I did not know you before, but now we can understand each other and be friends.”
We all feel alone sometimes, and perhaps that is part of the human condition. Yet connections exist all around. It is up to us to see them or not.
“When you look into the faces of these quiet creatures who don’t know how to tell stories–who are mute, who can’t make themselves heard, who fade into the woodwork, who only think of the perfect answer after the fact, after they’re back at home, who can never think of a story that anyone else will find interesting–is there not more depth and more meaning in them? You can see every letter of every untold story swimming on their faces, and all the signs of silence, dejection, and even defeat. You can even imagine your own face in those faces, can’t you?”
― Orhan Pamuk
MY TRIBE – by Alberto Blanco
(English translation: James Nolan)
Earth is the same
Sky is the same
From lake to lake,
Forest to forest”
Which tribe is mine?
— I ask myself —
Where’s my place?
Perhaps I belong to the tribe
Of those who have none;
Or to the black sheep tribe;
Or to a tribe whose ancestors
come from the future:
A tribe on the horizon.
But if I have to belong to some
— I tell myself —
Make it a large tribe,
Make it a strong tribe,
One in which nobody
Is left out,
In which everybody,
For once and for all
Has a God-given place.
I’m not talking about a human
I’m not talking about a planetary
I’m not even talking about a
I’m talking about a tribe you can’t
A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence must yet be
A tribe that’s always been
But whose existence
We can prove right now.
A Friendship in Flowers: Paintings by Irma Freeman
After emigrating to the U.S., Irma Freeman lived a good part of her life in poverty. Yet, despite her personal hardships, in her paintings she created a richness that inspired her family and friends, as well as a following of young artists. In particular she often received the gift of flowers for her to paint, often from her friend Joan Brindle’s garden. Irma’s colors were vivid and surreal. No matter where she was, or how dreary her environment seemed to others, her paintings drew from a place beyond her reality where she transformed her life into a vase full of no ordinary flowers. Although she lived in her poverty stricken home, she metamorphosed it into some sort of wealth of color that was incredible to those around her. Through her beautiful flowers and landscapes, she made others see what she saw. It was if she had some sort of fairy tale she was telling though painting, a fantasy of her own imagination. It is her notion of imagination and wonderment that lead us to an idyllic world: using color and form, she was able to transcend her little city row house into a palace of dreams. http://www.irmafreeman.com/irma_freeman_center/past_exhibitions.html
‘Blessed in the Spirit of Camaraderie’ by Fauna Warfield
When is the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger who piqued your interest?
“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
The artful expression below called ‘All In Our Boxes’ is strangely captivating and a bit unsettling. How does it make you feel?
Can you imagine how you might react upon seeing this while taking a walk through the woods? What would Thoreau say?
Give place to others, as others have given place to you. Equality is the soul of equity. Who can complain of being comprehended in the same destiny, wherein all are involved?
~Michael de Montaigne
“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
(Photo: Alsace, France, Jean-Michel Priaux)
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” -Ralph Nichols
‘In the Shelter of Each Other’ by Tammy Olson
Storytelling is incredibly powerful, yet we often fail to appreciate its value in our lives. Do you make time for sharing stories with others?
Here are some reasons to do so:
- Storytelling influences change at individual practice as well as organisational level
- Listening to stories facilitates better person-centred care and can lead to improved services
- Hearing personal stories engenders greater understanding, empathy and reflection
- Rapport, trust and care can be nurtured in practitioner-service user relationships through storytelling
- Personal storytelling benefits the teller as it can empower, encourage personal growth and build resilience
- Due consideration needs to be given to ethical issues in storytelling and telling stories has the potential to be demoralising and disempowering for the teller
[This Insight was written by Michelle Drumm (IRISS) – http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/role-personal-storytelling-practice]
It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. ~Irish Proverb
“The important element is the way in which all things are connected. Every thought and action sends shivers of energy into the world around us, which affects all creation. Perceiving the world as a web of connectedness helps us to overcome the feelings of separation that hold us back and cloud our vision. This connection with all life increases our sense of responsibility for every move, every attitude, allowing us to see clearly that each soul does indeed make a difference to the whole.” ~Emma Restall Orr
“The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.”
‘Human Structures & The Light of Consciousness’ art display by sculptor Jonathan Borofsky. Borofsky describes his work as being connected through “the search for human understanding – symbols that give us a feeling of connection to each other.”http://www.percontra.net/12borofsky.htm
“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.” ~Frederick Buechner
“We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden.” ~Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordair
“The longer we listen to one another – with real attention – the more commonality we will find in all our lives. That is, if we are careful to exchange with one another life stories and not simply opinions.” ~Barbara Deming
[Cover art: ‘Four Blobs’ by my son Eric Detjen]