While doing my end-of-year review, I’ve gradually became aware of the number of human dramas that might be defined as “separation/union” plots. National political separations; families separated by divorces, sicknesses, accidents and even deaths; similar changes in other personal relationships; disagreements that escalate, or understandings that bring together. Even our sports are dominated by the separations of rivalries, alongside the power of team unity.
It almost seems to be a universal theme in human activity. We might put it into a question: are we fundamentally separate? Or fundamentally one? Looking around, it’s not easy to tell, because we seem to swing like a pendulum between these two ends of some global arc.
This past year has seen a lot of disasters, which I needn’t detail. You know them. Yet it has struck me with unusual force how often someone whose life has been unalterably changed, makes a comment like this: “You discover what’s important and it’s not the things, as much as we like them. It’s the people we love, the family. If we are still together, that’s what matters.” This seems so evident in tragedy and so much taken for granted in more usual circumstances.
I have recently read that in the Blackfoot language, one person doesn’t actually greet another with “how are you?” They ask instead, “How are your connections?”
It might be the perfect question to be asking ourselves in 2019: how are my connections? How much is there of closeness, of mutuality, of shared approval and appreciation? Or am I swept into the web of separations that our world seems to foster—and indeed that I myself foster by judgments and disapprovals?
Many of us look at the troubles in the world and feel overwhelmed and helpless. But there is something that we can do, that we need to do: tend our connections. Life is, after all, holographic and we are all in this world together. If I tend the connectedness that is possible in my own life, and you tend the connections in yours, we would in fact make a difference—maybe a bigger one than we can imagine, much less track. We would experience differences in our own living and affect the rest of our human relations at the same time.
So maybe it bears daily attention, this question: how are your connections?