Connecting is what our ancestors were doing thousands of years ago when they gathered around the fire to eat woolly mammoth steaks or stitch together the latest animal hide fashions. It what’s we do when we hold quilting bees, golf tournaments, conferences and yard sales. It underlies our cultural rituals from the serious to the frivolous, from weddings and funerals to Barbie Doll conventions and hot dog eating contests.
Even the most antisocial of artists and poets who spend long, cranky months painting in a studio or composing in a cubicle off their bedroom are usually hoping that through their creations they will eventually connect with the public.And connection lies at the very heart of those three pillars of our democratic civilization: government, religion and television. Yes, television. Given that you can discuss "Downtown Abbey," "This Is Us" or "Dancing with The Stars" with folks from London to New York to Australia, a case must be made for the tube’s ability to help people connect all over the globe.
Thousands of people impact all aspects of our lives. Be it the weatherman at the TV studio in a neighboring city, or the technician at a phone company across the continent, or the woman in a warm climate who picks the mangoes for your fruit salad. Every day, willingly or unwillingly, we make a myriad of connections with people around the world.
Making connections is what our gray matter does best. It receives information from our senses and processes it by making associations. The brain delights in and learns from these associations. It grows and flourishes when it’s making connections.
Other people can also help you take care of your needs and desires. Whatever it is you’d like in your life – romance, a dream job, a ticket to the Super Bowl – the chances are pretty high that you’ll need someone’s help to get it. If people like you, they will be disposed to give you their time and their efforts. And the better the quality of rapport you have with them, the higher the level of their cooperation.
Connecting is good for the community. After all, a community is the culmination of a lot of connections: common beliefs, achievements, values, interests and geography. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Louisville. Three thousand years ago, in what today we call Rome, Indo-Europeans connected to hunt, survive and generally look out for one another. Several hundred years ago, French explorers discovered the Ohio River; they started making connections and pretty soon Louisville was born.
We have a basic, physical need for other people. There are shared, mutual benefits in a community, so we look out for each other. A connected community provides its members with strength and safety. When we feel strong and safe, we can put our energy into evolving – socially, culturally and spiritually.
Finally, we benefit from each other emotionally. We are not closed, self-regulating systems, but open loops regulated, disciplined, encouraged, reprimanded, supported and validated by the emotional feedback we receive from others.
From time to time, we meet someone who influences our emotions and vital body rhythms in such a pleasurable way that we call it love. Be it through body language, gestures, facial expression, tone of voice or words alone, other people make our hard times more bearable, our good times much sweeter.
We use the emotional input of other humans as much as we do the air we breathe and the food we eat. Deprive us of emotional and physical contact (a hug and a smile can go a long way), and we will wither and die just as surely as it we were deprived of food. That’s why we hear stories of children in orphanages who grow sickly and weak despite being adequately fed and clothed.
People with autism may desire emotional and physical contact but can languish because they are hindered by their lack of social skills. And how often have you heard about one spouse in a 50-year marriage who, despite being healthy, dies a few short months of even weeks after the death of the other spouse?
Food and shelter aren’t enough. We need each other, and we need love.