Hunger for Connection

“Just as there are mental states only possible in crowds, there are mental states only possible in privacy.”

Those are the words of Sarah Perry from Luxuriating in Privacy. I came across the quote from a David Chapman tweet. He then asks, “Loneliness epidemic—or a golden age of privacy?” With that lure, I couldn’t help but bite.

I’m already familiar with Sarah Perry’s writings at Ribbonfarm. There is even an earlier comment by me at the piece the quote comes from, although I had forgotten about it. In the post, she begins with links to some of her previous commentary, the first one (Ritual and the Consciousness Monoculture) having been my introduction to her work. I referenced it in my post Music and Dance on the Mind and it does indeed connect to the above thought on privacy.

In that other post by Perry, she discusses Keeping Together in Time by William H. McNeill. His central idea is “muscular bonding” that creates, maintains, and expresses a visceral sense of group-feeling and fellow-feeling. This can happen through marching, dancing, rhythmic movements, drumming, chanting, choral singing, etc (for example, see: Choral Singing and Self-Identity). McNeill quotes A. R. Radcliffe about the Andaman islanders: “As the dancer loses himself in the dance, as he becomes absorbed in the unified community, he reaches a state of elation in which he feels himself filled with energy or force immediately beyond his ordinary state, and so finds himself able to perform prodigies of exertion” (Kindle Locations 125-126).

The individual is lost, at least temporarily, an experience humans are drawn to in many forms. Individuality is tiresome and we moderns feel compelled to take a vacation from it. Having forgotten earlier ways of being, maybe privacy is the closest most of us get to lowering our stressful defenses of hyper-individualistic pose and performance. The problem is privacy so easily reinforces the very individualistic isolation that drains us of energy.

This might create the addictive cycle that Johann Hari discussed in Chasing the Scream and would relate to the topic of depression in his most recent book, Lost Connections. He makes a strong argument about the importance of relationships of intimacy, bonding, and caring (some communities have begun to take seriously this issue; others deem what is required are even higher levels of change, radical and revolutionary). In particular, the rat park research is fascinating. The problem with addiction is that it simultaneously relieves the pain of our isolation while further isolating us. Or at least this is what happens in a punitive society with weak community and culture of trust. For that reason, we should look to other cultures for comparison. In some traditional societies, there is a greater balance and freedom to choose. I specifically had the Piraha in mind, as described by Daniel Everett.

The Piraha are a prime example of how not all cultures have a dualistic conflict between self and community, between privacy and performance. Their communities are loosely structured and the individual is largely autonomous in how and with whom they use their time. They lack much in the way of formal social structure, since there are no permanent positions of hierarchical authority (e.g., no tribal council of elders), although any given individual might temporarily take a leadership position in order to help accomplish an immediate task. Nor do they have much in the way of ritual or religion. It isn’t an oppressive society.

Accordingly, Everett observes how laid back, relaxed, and happy they seem. Depression, anxiety, and suicide appear foreign to them. When he told them about a depressed family member who killed herself, the Piraha laughed because assumed he was joking. There was no known case of suicide in the tribe. Even more interesting is that, growing up, the Piraha don’t exhibit transitional periods such as the terrible twos or teenage rebelliousness. They simply go from being weaned to joining adult activities with no one telling them to what to do.

The modern perceived conflict between group and individual might not be a universal and intrinsic aspect of human society. But it does seem a major issue for WEIRD societies, in particular. Maybe has to do with how ego-bound is our sense of identity. The other thing the Piraha lack is a permanent, unchanging self-identity because such as a meeting with a spirit in the jungle might lead to a change of name and, to the Piraha, the person who went by the previous name no longer is there. They feel no need to defend their individuality because any given individual self can be set aside.

It is hard for Westerners and Americans most of all to imagine a society that is this far different. It is outside of the mainstream capacity of imagining what is humanly possible. It’s similar to why so many people reject out of hand such theories as Julian Jaynes’ bicameral mind. Such worldviews simply don’t fit into what we know. But maybe this sense of conflict we cling to is entirely unnecessary. If so, why do we feel such conflict is inevitable? And so why do we value privacy so highly? What is it that we seek from being isolated and alone? What is it that we think we have lost that needs to be regained? To help answer these questions, I’ll present a quote by Julian Jaynes that I included in writing Music and Dance On the Mind — from his book that Perry is familiar with:

“Another advantage of schizophrenia, perhaps evolutionary, is tirelessness. While a few schizophrenics complain of generalized fatigue, particularly in the early stages of the illness, most patients do not. In fact, they show less fatigue than normal persons and are capable of tremendous feats of endurance. They are not fatigued by examinations lasting many hours. They may move about day and night, or work endlessly without any sign of being tired. Catatonics may hold an awkward position for days that the reader could not hold for more than a few minutes. This suggests that much fatigue is a product of the subjective conscious mind, and that bicameral man, building the pyramids of Egypt, the ziggurats of Sumer, or the gigantic temples at Teotihuacan with only hand labor, could do so far more easily than could conscious self-reflective men.”

Considering that, it could be argued that privacy is part of the same social order, ideological paradigm, and reality tunnel that tires us out so much in the first place. Endlessly without respite, we feel socially compelled to perform our individuality. And even in retreating into privacy, we go on performing our individuality for our own private audience, as played out on the internalized stage of self-consciousness that Jaynes describes. That said, even though the cost is high, it leads to great benefits for society as a whole. Modern civilization wouldn’t be possible without it. The question is whether the costs outweigh the benefits and also whether the costs are sustainable or self-destructive in the long term.

As Eli wrote in the comments section to Luxuriating in Privacy: “Privacy isn’t an unalloyed good. As you mention, we are getting ever-increasing levels of privacy to “luxuriate” in. But who’s to say we’re not just coping with the change modernity constantly imposes on us? Why should we elevate the coping mechanism, when it may well be merely a means to lessen the pain of an unnecessarily “alienating” constructed environment.” And “isn’t the tiresomeness of having to model the social environment itself contingent on the structural precariousness of one’s place in an ambiguous, constantly changing status hierarchy?”

Still, I do understand where Perry is coming from, as I’m very much an introvert who values my alone time and can be quite jealous of my privacy, although I can’t say that close and regular social contact “fills me with horror.” Having lived alone for years in apartments and barely knowing my neighbors, I spend little time at my ‘home’ and instead choose to regularly socialize with my family at my parents’ house. Decades of depression has caused me to be acutely aware of the double-edged sword of privacy.

Let me respond to some specifics of Perry’s argument.  “Consider obesity,” she writes. “A stylized explanation for rising levels of overweight and obesity since the 1980s is this: people enjoy eating, and more people can afford to eat as much as they want to. In other words, wealth and plenty cause obesity.” There are some insightful comparisons of eating practices. Not all modern societies with equal access to food have equal levels of obesity. Among many other health problems, obesity can result from stress because our bodies prepare for challenging times by accumulating fat reserves. And if there is enough stress, studies have found this is epigenetically passed onto children.

As a contrast, consider the French culture surrounding food. The French don’t eat much fast food, don’t tend to eat or drink on the go. It is more common for them sit down to enjoy their coffee in the morning, rather than putting it in a traveling mug to drink on the way to work. Also, they are more likely to take long lunches in order to eat leisurely and typically do so with others. For the French, the expectation is that meals are to be enjoyed as a social experience and so they organize their entire society accordingly. Even though they eat many foods that some consider unhealthy, they don’t have the same high rates of stress-related diseases as do Americans.

An even greater contrast comes from looking once again at the Piraha. They live in an environment of immense abundance. And it requires little work to attain sustenance. In a few hours of work, an individual could get enough food to feed an extended family for multiple meals. They don’t worry about going hungry and yet, for various reasons, will choose not to not eat for extended periods of time when they wish to spend their time in other ways such as relaxing or dancing. They impose a feast and fast lifestyle on themselves, a typical pattern for hunter-gatherers. As with the French, when the Piraha have a meal, it is very much a social event. Unsurprisingly, the Piraha are slim and trim, muscular and healthy. They don’t suffer from stress-related physical and mental conditions, certainly not obesity.

Perry argues that, “Analogized to privacy, perhaps the explanation of atomization is simply that people enjoy privacy, and can finally afford to have as much as they want. Privacy is an economic good, and people show a great willingness to trade other goods for more privacy.” Using Johan Hari’s perspective, I might rephrase it: Addiction is economically profitable within the hyper-individualism of capitalist realism, and people show a difficult to control craving that causes them to pay high costs to feed their addiction. Sure, temporarily alleviating the symptoms makes people feel better. But what is it a symptom of? That question is key to understanding. I’m persuaded that the issue at hand is disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. So much else follows from that.

Explaining the title of her post, Perry writes that: “One thing that people are said to do with privacy is to luxuriate in it. What are the determinants of this positive experience of privacy, of privacy experienced as a thing in itself, rather than through violation?” She goes on to describes on to describes the features of privacy, various forms of personal space and enclosure. Of course, Julian Jaynes argued that the ultimate privacy is the construction of individuality itself, the experience of space metaphorically internalized and interiorized. Further development of privacy, however, is a rather modern invention. For example, it wasn’t until recent centuries that private bedrooms became common, having been popularized in Anglo-American culture by Quakers. Before that, full privacy was a rare experience and far from having been considered a human necessity or human right.

But we have come to take privacy for granted, not talking about certain details is a central part of privacy itself. “Everybody knows that everybody poops. Still, you’re not supposed to poop in front of people. The domain of defecation is tacitly edited out of our interactions with other people: for most social purposes, we are expected to pretend that we neither produce nor dispose of bodily wastes, and to keep any evidence of such private. Polite social relations exclude parts of reality by tacit agreement; scatological humor is a reminder of common knowledge that is typically screened off by social agreement. Sex and masturbation are similar.”

Defecation is a great example. There is no universal experience about the privatization of the act of pooping. In early Europe, relieving oneself in public was common and considered well within social norms. It was a slow ‘civilizing’ process to teach people to be ashamed of bodily functions, even simple things like farting and belching in public (there are a number of interesting books on the topic). I was intrigued by Susan P. Mattern’s The Prince of Medicine. She describes how almost everything in the ancient world was a social experience. Even taking a shit was an opportunity to meet and chat with one’s family, friends, and neighbors. They apparently felt no drain of energy or need to perform in their social way of being in the world. It was relaxed and normal to them, simply how they lived and they knew nothing else.

Also, sex and masturbation haven’t always been exclusively private acts. We have little knowledge of sex in the archaic world. Jaynes noted that sexuality wasn’t treated as anything particularly concerning and worrisome during the bicameral era. Obsession with sex, positive or negative, more fully developed during the Axial Age. As late as Feudalism, heavily Christianized Europe offered little opportunity for privacy and maintained a relatively open attitude about sexuality during many public celebrations, specifically Carnival, and they spent an amazing amount of their time in public celebrations. Barbara Ehrenreich describes this ecstatic communality in Dancing in the Streets. Like the Piraha, these earlier Europeans had a more social and fluid sense of identity.

Let me finish by responding to Perry’s conclusion: “As I wrote in A Bad Carver, social interaction has increasingly become “unbundled” from other things. This may not be a coincidence: it may be that people have specifically desired more privacy, and the great unbundling took place along that axis especially, in response to demand. Modern people have more room, more autonomy, more time alone, and fewer social constraints than their ancestors had a hundred years ago. To scoff at this luxury, to call it “alienation,” is to ignore that it is the choices of those who are allegedly alienated that create this privacy-friendly social order.”

There is no doubt what people desire. In any given society, most people desire whatever they are acculturated to desire. Example after example of this can be found in social science research, the anthropological literature, and classical studies. It’s not obvious to me that there is any evidence that modern people have fewer social constraints. What is clear is that we have different social constraints and that difference seems to have led to immense stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Barbara Ehrenreich discusses the rise in depression in particular, as have others such as Mark Fisher’s work on capitalist realism (I quote him and others here). The studies on WEIRD cultures are also telling (see: Urban Weirdness and Dark Triad Domination).

The issue isn’t simply what choices we make but what choices we are offered and denied, what choices we can and cannot perceive or even imagine. And that relates to how we lose contact with the human realities of other societies that embody other possibilities not chosen or even considered within the constraints of our own. We are disconnected not only from others within our society. Our WEIRD monocultural dominance has isolated us also from other expressions of human potential.

We luxuriate in privacy because our society offers us few other choices, like a choice between junk food or starvation, in which case junk food tastes delicious. For most modern Westerners, privacy is nothing more than a temporary escape from an overwhelming world. But what we most deeply hunger for is genuine connection.

Like Father, Not Like Son

Like Father, Not Like Son

Posted on Nov 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

I got annoyed at my dad during a phone conversation the other day.  I hung up on him which is the first time I’ve ever done that in my life.  And now I don’t even feel like talking to him at all.  My mom’s family is known for their ability to hold long-lasting grudges and I can almost feel that desire in me.  I’m willing to bet that I’m capable of it.

I don’t know if he was in a bad mood or what.  He was determined to be crtical about everything which in and of itself is something I can sympathize with, but what bothered me was that he was doing it in a self-righteous way (with an implication that my opinion was worth less than his).  He was arguing that there was only one truth and he so happened to be in possession of it. 

At first, I tried to point out the positives for sake of balance and then I tried to be conciliatory, but he just wouldn’t have it.  He wouldn’t leave it as simply a differences of perspectives… because, as a moral conservative, that smacks of moral relativism.  Someone has to be right and therefore everyone else must be wrong (Extraverted Thinking types I tell ya).

He was complaining about the lazy selfish kids these days (not like the good ol’ days when kids were obediant and submissive to authority… sure).  Basically, he was coming off as a bitter old man who has forgotten what it was like to be young.  He is a moral conservative and seems to think that Obama (who mobilized all those lazy selfish youngsters) is one of the first signs of the end of the world.  I’m the last to argue against the imperfections of this existence and the failings of human nature, but I’m not usually one of those that will try to pin it all on a specific group of people.

The thing is that he can be one of the nicest people.  He seems to genuinely like people and he is always helping others.  At the same time, he can be one of the most arrogantly judgmental people that I know.  He sees himself as a self-made man and arrogance is often the flaw of this type of person. 

He has had his struggles in life like everyone, but he has never known really hard times… such as involving racial prejudice, poverty, major illness, or long-term depression.  I don’t get the sense that he has a deep understanding of or compassion for the suffering of others which are the very things I value above all else.  This isn’t to say he isn’t compassionate.  He is a caring person in a patriarchal fatherly kind of way.  He cares about the poor as one who has never been poor, but he does care.  He goes to great effort to make a positive difference in the world.

His morality seems to be primarily based upon intellectual principles and a sense of social obligation.  He does have a more accepting side that is very much genuine, but his righteous side is never very far away.  It can actually bother me even more sometimes when I sense him trying to hide his righteous side.  If someone is going to feel judgmental towards me, they might as well just get it out in the open.

What I was thinking about is how people can have such contradictory sides of their personality.  I’m the same way.  I can be extremely compassionate and understanding, but there is another part of me that is severely misanthropic.  Despite or because of my understanding of suffering, I can simply get stuck in my suffering… even selfishly stuck.  My dad, because he isn’t overwhelmed by such an intimate knowledge of suffering, is much more able to actively help others. 

Theoretically, balance is always possible and to that extent desirable.  However, experience has shown me that this ideal of balance is rarely a reality.

I’m not in a morally superior position to judge my father.  I guess what my annoyance comes down to is that he wants to put himself above others as an example of superiority.  He wants to be admired and looked up to.  He has a side of him that feels quite the opposite of superior, but this is the side that he rarely shows.  I know that it bothers him that he feels his sons don’t respect him, but I’d respect him more if he’d let that more vulnerable side show more.  However, maybe that is the same as saying that I’d like him better if he was more like me.

From the perspective of the societal standard of morality, he is a much better man than I am.  He is a respectable professor and church leader.  He has high expectations that he strives hard to live up to.  He gives of himself constantly in that his life revolves around others.  He is one of those people who needs people to need him.  That is what our society values.  He is an admirable representative of our society’s aspirations.  He is the American ideal of ambiton (with its concomitant shadow of the advantages and privilege of being a middle class white male… which my dad would deny).

He is an Extraverted Thinking type which has been the ideal male personality type of our society.  He is a very well developed person in terms of his personality inclinations.  He even has come to sense the more Feeling side of life in his older age, but of course this gets subjugated to his dominant function of Extraverted Thinking.  His moral righteousness may even be an expression of his being in the grip of his inferior function of Introverted Feeling.  Our inferior function becomes stronger as we age which can both be good and bad.

I’m the opposite of him as my dominant function is Introverted Feeling.  My being raised by two Extraverted Thinking types has left a lasting impression on me.  I sense that a significant element of my depression is how much I’m drawn into the grip of my inferior Extraverted Thinking. 

Our weaknesses are simply the other side of our strengths.

The practical purpose of my thinking about this is the consideration of my relationship with my dad… what it could be and what I don’t want it to be.  If he was always as righteous as he was the other day, I very well might gladly refuse to speak to him for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, he rarely behaves in such an overtly righteous manner.  Most often he tries to be kind and friendly.  When he is in a good mood, which is more often than not, he enjoys being humorous and entertaining.

In the past, it seemed I was closer to him than my brothers.  I’ve tended to be forthright in speaking about my life to my parents whereas my brothers tend to keep the personal out of their relationships to them.  Nonetheless, my brothers get along with my dad better maybe because of that formality.  My brothers interact with him through more neutral subjects such as computers and finances.  I’m the only one who will debate with my dad about what he deeply values (we both love to debate), and I seem to be the one he feels the most comfortable with being honest about his opinions (which was what did happen during the recent phone conversation).  Even so, we’re usually both good at coming to a middle ground (which is what didn’t happen during the recent phone conversation).

My famly isn’t all seriousness.  My brothers and I learned our humor from our dad, and so humor is a major aspect of how we all relate.  However, its my oldest brother who has the most similar personality to my dad and also the most simlar of a sense of humor.  They’re both more congenially entertaining in their humor.  My humor, on the other hand, goes between the extremes of inanely silly and cynically dark.  My dad often uses his congenial nature to try to manipulate people… manipulate in a good-intentioned kind of way.  But, good intentions or not, I’m stubbornly resistant (a trait from my mom) to being anyone who tries to change me or my mood.  I’m what I am and that is just the way it is.

Because of all this, my dad is an extemely more likable person than I’d ever hope to be.  I’m not much of a people pleaser whereas my dad is the gregarious type who is the life of the party.  In his adult age, he has gained the confidence and popularity that he feels he lacked as a chld.  He is proud of his accomplishments and the person he has become.  He is very capable in what he does and he is very knowledgable.

I’ve learned a lot from him.  I too have become a knoledgable person in my own way.  And one aspect I’m superior to him is in my obsessive compulsion to see all sides to every situation… which he sees as moral relativism.  His knowledge is highly specialized and focused, but my knowledge is randomly wide-ranging and motivated by undirected curiosity.  I learned my rationality from him, but as an Extraverted Thinking type rationality comes more natural to him as being a well developed attribute of his everyday behavior.  His rationality is usually focused on practical matters of living a responsible life (even his humor has a tinge of social responsibility to it).  My rationality, because its more of a learned attribute and because its ruled by my Introversion, is more detached and neutral.  I don’t try to conform my rationality to any particular moral belief system as he does.

My dad and I live in very different worlds, and yet there is quite a bit that we share.  My base personality might be more of my mom’s contribution, but my dad has had an immense impression on me. 

He is the standard by which I feel judged in my failure to live up to his example, and he is the standard of our society that just doesn’t make sense to me personally.  He has all the proof on his side, the respectability, the “hard-earned” money.  He lives his moral ideals.  When he dies, there will be a long line of people wanting to make grand statements about what an admirable fellow he was. 

I have nothing tangible to show for my life besides who I am as an individual, but to him what matters is what you do and what you accomplish.  Its obvious from his perspective that his opinions are superior because the life he has lived is superior.  The proof is in the pudding. 

I’m sure he’ll want to reconcile, but I’ll always know his true opinions even when he hides them.  He wouldn’t judge me directly, but I represent what he sees as problematic in the world.  He wouldn’t say it that way to my face.  Still, those are the facts.  And that is what erupted the other day in that phone conversation.

I really don’t know how to relate to him.  If we weren’t father and son, there wouldn’t be much to base our relationship upon.  That seems to be the way family is.  The close friendships I seek are with people who aren’t like anyone in my family.  I get along with my family actually quite well, but family is what they are.  At one time, I almost had a friendship-like relationship with one of my brothers, but even that has mostly dissipated with his own family responsibilities and stresses.

My family is there for me in a distant kind of way.  If worst came to worst, they’d help me out.  But my life would have to be horribly bad before my family would intervene.  I’d have to be homeless or suicidal or something.  I mean what could they do?

For all my dad’s accomplishments, any good advice he could give me would most likely be worthless to me.  He cares about me as a father… in the way that being a father is a social obligation… but he doesn’t know me.  And I’m sure that I don’t really know him either.

As I get older, I start questioning who it is that I would turn to in times of need.  I’m starting to feel that I’d more likely turn to a friend than to family.  I have sincere doubts about the support my family can offer.  Then again, I have sincere doubts about the support anyone can offer anyone else.

Access_public Access: Public 3 Comments Print Post this!views (95)  

about 12 hours later

AB517 said

LMAO … I have no insight … let us be clear on that.
To doubt humans is human. 
Hey Marm.  Good to see ya.  I have been reading your stuff and I am sorry I have no responses. This one caught my eye.
I can not believe this would/could cause the rift Marm.  This sounds exactly like my relationship with my father.  He did not “know” me nor I he.  It is the way for most of us.  I loved my dad and he was the smartest bravest man I knew. 
I know as a father that I talk to my children at times as if they were property and I work on that.  They also do the same to me.  The statements of “kids today are ….” Is as old as humans themselves.   My niece and nephew are in their mid 30’s and have children.  I still have to stop myself from running up to them, picking them up, and kissing them like they are five.  They are people now … just regular ol’ people … with the same flaws I have … but boy I love them.
Some days we are not in the “mood” for them on exactly the same day they are not in the “mood” for us.  You have stated many nice things about him so focus on them and be vigilant of yourself.  I say these things on the bases of a “normal relationship” (what ever that means) between parents and children.
My sister gets hung up on “yeah, but how do you know”.  Nobody knows … ease up on the gas … to stop spinning the tires … pick a direction … and move.  Data collection is a tricky business, not enough leads to horrendous mistakes and taking to long ends up in nothing getting accomplished or so scattered it is meaningless.
Just because you ask advice does not mean you have to use it.  Do not feel bad that you can not turn to your family … that is ok … it is you that wishes you could.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

I don’t normally think about who might be following blog.  I sorta remember telling you about this site.  I’m glad my blog was interesting enough for you to read even if you had nothing to add.

I can understand why this one caught your eye.  Its more personal than most of my blogs  I considered not posting it as its mostly just me venting.

Yeah, this by itself wasn’t the cause of the rift or the sense of rift.  It was just symbollic of our relationship.  I know its not anything unusual.  Its common among family, and its common in all kinds of relationships.  Its hard to remember people are just people.  I’m almost incapable of thinking of my father as anything other than as my father.  That is just who is to me.  Our roles in life become very clear in our close relationships.

I generally focus on the the ways we get along.  For the most part, we get along just fine.  I am grateful for all that I’ve learned from him.  He is a pretty good father.  I have no major complaints of how I was raised.

The difficulty I have is our roles get in the way.  I don’t really care about him as the role he plays  My interest in him is in the person who he is.  I usually enjoy relating to him even if it isn’t at the same level of a friendship.  I’m not sure if I act like a son, but I feel that he acts like a father.  He is a person who seems to like roles.  I don’t.  To him, its his duty to act as a father and so any discussion between us always has an inequality of power.  We can’t just talk. Often talks with him can feel like negotiations of our relationship.

Whatever… that is just the way it is.

By the way, I just tried to visit the Agnostic forum.  It seems no longer to exist or something.  Was it closed down?  If so, that is too bad.  It was a fairly nice group where discussions were mostly civil.

2 days later

AB517 said

Yeah it is down.  POOF … it was gone.
Do not negotiate, let him be him and you be you.  If he is locked into a role, so be it.  You can understand he is talking as if he is still your caregiver.  This puts you in a position where you understand him.  You do not have to agree with everything thing he says nor do you have to address every point.  To him you’re still his “young” son and, how I know you, I would think he loves you an awful lot.
Maybe he is not a touchy feely guy.  My dad was a WW2 paratrooper, he never changed a diaper.  He missed out, and so did I, but that does not diminish the respect and love for him.  He did the best he knew how.  I tell my kids now ‘Hey this is our first time being parents … we are learning and will make mistakes too”
It is good to talk to you again Ben.  I know you know this stuff already and you will move past it.

human connection… so rare and fleeting

human connection… so rare and fleeting

Posted on Nov 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
There is something that has been on my mind for quite a while.  Being online has continually reminded me of it.  My first online community was a MBTI forum for INFPs.  As I’m an INFP, it was a very nice experience interacting with people who thought like me.  I met one person there who had a thinking pattern that was so extremely similar to mine which was so very odd. 

The main problem with that community was that it was fairly small and like many online communities the membership was somewhat transitory.  After several people I liked there stopped posting as much, I went looking elsewhere… but I still feel like I’m searching.  I joined a dozen or so communities before I finally came to Gaia.  I’ve connected with some here, but I don’t always feel like I fit in here. 

Connecting in a genuine way is such a difficult thing.  Meeting people is easy online, but really connecting is a whole other matter.  Part of it has to do with a desire to find people with a commonality of interests.  However, its much more fundamental than that as the INFP forum demonstrated.  Even though my interests were different than most of the people on that forum, there was such a commonality of life experience that it helped to bridge those differences.

I do feel more at home here than on most sites I’ve joined.  I do suspect that is because there are more people of similar personality types here.  A thread in the God Pod showed a preponderance of Introverts, Intuitives, and Feelers (MBTI terminology).  Nonetheless, even among stimilar types, the feeling of deep connection is rare and seemingly too little valued in our society.  I do know that its more valued amongst INFPs, but even on the INFP forum it was only a few people I really connected with.  I don’t know what that mysterious element is… its either there or it isn’t.  Even lesser connections can be nice, but that deeper connection is amazing when it happens.

I remember when I first experienced this kind of connection.  It was right after highschool.  I was working at a YMCA camp near Asheville, NC.  The summer was coming to an end and I was switching to another work area.  I met this girl and we connected in a way I’d never experienced before.  She was engaged and the connection didn’t feel romantic.  Its just that we resonated so easily.  I felt relaxed and happy around her.  This was amazing as I was quite depressed at the time.  However, I only got to know her for a short period of time (maybe a week or two) before we went our separate ways and we didn’t stay in contact.  Life is strange like that.  I’ve never felt that quick of a connection ever again.

Why are connections like this so unusual and so ephemeral?  Our longing for connection seems greater than the limits of mortal reality allows.  Maybe the longing for connection is more important than the connection itself.  In this, I’m influenced by the Sufi emphasis of longing itself.  God, if he is anything, is this longing.

Sometime later, maybe the following summer after the YMCA, I was working at the Grand Canyon feeling even more depressed and wishing to escape the world.  I met a real nice guy.  He was around 50 or so which put him at approximately the same age as my parents, but he seemed younger.  He was one of those old hippies who still was trying to live a life of freedom even as age was catching up with him.  He was from Arizona and in his after highschool years had fallen in love with nature.  He wanted nothing other than to hike and camp.  He had been down in the Grand Canyon many times before, but now he was like me working up on the rim making beds and cleaning bathrooms. 

I remember one time we went for a walk along the rim.  We were away from the village and we stopped at a quiet spot.  He was looking out at the Grand Canyon with such longing that I could feel it.  That longing is something that has become a part of me and he gave form to it during a particularly despairing time of my life.  He couldn’t take the longing unsatisfied any longer and he quit.  It was torture for him to be able to see the Grand Canyon without being able to go down into it, to explore it, to follow those endless canyons.

I can tell you that I was feeling disatisfied myself at this time and so very lonely.  I was tired of the way the world was.  Part of me also wanted to just disappear into nature, to escape all the tired expectations of family and society. 

After a while, I too decided to quit.  I knew someone who was also considering quitting and who had a car.  I convineced her to leave with me and go on a road trip since we both planned on heading back to our respective homes which were in the same general direction.  She had a friend that she had come to the Grand Canyon with and he wasn’t happy to see her go.  He told her that “people need people”.  It seemed like such a silly thing at the time, but its stuck with me after all these years.  Its true though… people do need people.

And, yet, people are always leaving.  No relationship lasts forever.

I’ve become very cynical as I’ve aged, but I must say I was already developing my cynical side as far as back as grade school.  Its just become more pronounced with life experience.

A few years ago, I decided to do everything I could to turn my life around.  I’ve always had this side of me that just wants to be a simple good person… a noble endeavor indeed.  So, I put myself out into the world and took risks, but it was a struggle even with antidepressants and therapists.  I met many people and it was moderately nice despite a part of me that is eternally dissatisfied with all of existence.

I even fell in love for the first time in my life.  I wanted to fall in love, but I think I could’ve made a better choice for the object of my love.  It wasn’t exactly mutual.  Thusly, I came to very intimate terms with my own frustrated longing.  Well, at least I know that my longing will always be there for me.

This blog is linked in three different threads.

OM posted it in the Collective Wisdom pod:

http://pods.gaia.com/collective_wisdom/discussions/view/369016

Meenkashi posted it in the Gaia Networking pod:

Blogs on Community, Interaction, Communication

I posted it in the God pod:

Community: blogs and threads

Access_public Access: Public 34 Comments Print Post this!views (371)  
Nicole : wakingdreamer
about 5 hours later

Nicole said

The internet is a real mixed blessing in terms of connections. It’s easier than ever before to meet people quickly with whom you resonate, but also easier than before to lose people.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Yep, Nicole. 

The internet, in its present condition, seems to be more of an experiment.  I suspect, as the internet becomes more immersed into everyday life, we will see less of this transitory style of relating.  It already is something like this for the youngsters these days.  They don’t as clearly distinguish their online and offine lives. 

The main thing that leads to the transitoriness is probably the anonymous factor.  Most people feel they don’t have to act as they normally do because the internet is mostly a separate world from their everyday life.  That is the other thing about the younger generations.  They seem less concerned about anonymity.

However, connecting is always challenging no matter what the situation.  Can’t blame it all on the internet.

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 10 hours later

starlight said

hey ben…i think fear keeps us from connecting better than we do…sometimes it is a healthy fear i suppose…and when it is on the internet, it is difficult b/c you don’t have that face to face thing where you can actually look someone in the eye and see their expressions…but to be honest, i have difficulty connecting with others, many times b/c of the diversity of our beliefs and interests…but it is very nice when you actually do connect with someone and a friendship blossoms…

hope you are well…always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

I’m well enough.  I’m just in a space of assessing my reasons for spending time online as it relates to what the intenet actually is able to offer.  My experience is that dissatisfaction comes from having unrealistic expectations, but humans seem to thrive on unrealistic expectations.  Our whole civilization is built on unrealistic expectations.

I’m thinking that genuine connection beyond the transitory is too much to ask of the internet.  I have good relationships already in my life and so I’m not lacking in that department.  Really what I’m looking for online is commonality which may or may not include a deeper sense of connection.

I’m glad to see software being developed for social networking sites that makes it easier to connect with similar people.  Gaia’s resonance engine is designed for this purpose, but it hasn’t worked for me.  The people the resonance engine shows me tend to be those who are no longer active which is just depressing. 

Other sites have some cool functions for connecting.  I like what Netflix and Amazon are doing.  Netflix gives you the percentage of similar ratings to every other member and allows you to compare your individual ratings with those of others.  Amazon has something similar using your buying history and a tags system.  Both Netflix and Amazon also have very active online forums.

Its getting easier and easier to find people to connect with even if only on the level of common interests.  Helping people connect on a deeper level, however, is beyond the capacities of any internet site.

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 11 hours later

starlight said

i was a member on a spiritual forum that began about six years or so ago…it was the bomb…some of the ones of us that were there in the beginning still stay in touch…many of us formed deep friendships…when the site shut down, there was another that started; it has not been as successful, nor is the atmosphere the same as in the early days of the first one, but there are some of the same people that still post, and so in that sense it still feels connected…so it is possible…i learned so much on that site and will always be indebted to the dear ones that i met during that time…it was an awesome experience…but i doubt that there will ever be anything likened to it again…who knows though…lol…*

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Your spiritual forum sounds like my INFP forum.  I still visit the INFP forum, but I get the sense that it isn’t as active as it used to be.  The last time I visited, someone mentioned that the administrator had been MIA for quite a while and the lunatics had taken over the asylum.  Fortunately, the lunatics there are of the good-natured variety.  I just emailed a friend from that site.  She isn’t active there anymore, but we stay in contact.  I was telling her that I wish I could gather all the interesting people I’ve found around the net and put them in a single place.  My site would be called: Marmalade’s Cool Friends.  It would be the best site ever!  🙂

starlight : StarLight Dancing
about 12 hours later

starlight said

what would be the focus of such an endeavor?  lol…

that’s what happened to SDF…the guy that created it fell in love and stopped hanging out, and the lunatics took over…it came to a tragic end…for a while he still kept it intact as an archieve, it had some awesome info on it…but you can’t even go to it anymore…that reminds me, i still keep in touch with him and i have been meaning to ask him why the link no longer works…he had given me my own forum basically, within the forum, to post all my material…i posted so much on that forum it wasn’t funny…and i really would like to have access to it still, for that reason, and to read all the informative threads…a real wealth of info really…towards the end though it became like a big soap opera…drama, drama, drama…and of course i was right in the middle of it!  LOL…memories…haha…maybe i tell you about it sometime…it’s really pretty funny now, but it wasn’t then…always, star…

mikeS : Ha!
1 day later

mikeS said

there seems an underlying sadness in your essay. But then, there always seems to be an underlying, rather incoherent, undefinable sadness in all relationships, no matter how connected or close. Most tend to deny and distract from that low lying heaviness, but the weight of it pulls at us nonetheless.

It does seem that no matter how close we become, I can never fully share your experience of living, nor can you share mine, since words and physicality never quite close the distance. I have experienced this in my own marriage. reflecting truth in the old adage “so close, yet so far away.”

I also agree with starlight, that there does seem to be a fear in too much sharing of experience, in the recognition of the actual limits of that sharing and maybe that reflects the underlying sadness. In this sense we are all truly alone.

In recognizing the limits, I suppose we are resigned to share what we can and maybe this is why no relationship lasts forever since the sharing must always be limited. Even those relationships remaining in close proximity change, never to be what they once were and always resistant to fully become what they could be. I suppose this was why I turned to spirituality in the hope of finding an answer. Not yet, though.

It seems your commentary on your own experiences of relating, is really a commentary on all relationships. If we are all alone, maybe at least we can be together in that experience.

Thanks for the honesty, it was a pleasure to read…

mike S

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
1 day later

1Vector3 said

Oh, Ben, again I am blown away, and anything I might respond seems trivial by comparison to your sharings. But then I always feel superficial when INFP’s start doing their thing…… But I do recognize the depth, and in fact I can go there, too.

I can remember times in my life when all I had was the yearnings, the longings, for relationships and for something ineffable in or about life, and I found comfort and identity in the yearning itself.

One time I had a really indepth conversation with a good friend comparing our deepest subjective experiences and we managed to convey each to the other in such a way that we were blown away by the differences. After that, it has seemed a miracle to me that anyone can entertain the illusion that they understand or empathize with or grok anyone else’s inner experiences. Under the veneer of language agreements, lurks vast oceans of uniquenesses. [This does not contradict what I say below. Under the vast oceans is Oneness. Shall I say, they are all WATER !!]

It’s really true in this culture people are intimacy-phobic and intimacy-impaired by their upbringings. I believe there are cultures where this is NOT so. I don’t see this as a human issue, but a cultural issue.

Of course, and permit me to go woo-woo now, it is true IMO as you alluded, no human connection can come even close to the experience, the knowing, the BEING of “One Being in many forms” which those folks not in the illusion of separation can abide in. That is ultimately what we long for. Nothing in the world of form can provide that. That is our longing to simply be in full awareness of our own Ground of Being. In that awareness, we are automatically one with every other form in that we all are pieces of the Ground of Being. But we have our differences, on another level.

There are human experiences of “merging” energetically with another person, both feeling the separate self disappear into something or someone much Larger which yet paradoxically contains the smaller self, and this is sometimes spontaneous and sometimes cultivated, as through Tantric practices. These are pretty awesome. But they are also not states that can stay in the foreground of our awareness as we do the grocery shopping.

I have had experiences like you mentioned with the girl you were so [my word] comfortable with. I don’t think we achieve those; I think they just happen, and the basic cause is probably too woo-woo to go into here. I do think such a relationship CAN last a lifetime. I think profundly deep good relationships CAN last a lifetime. That’s “forever,” to most people. There are many examples of couples who grew old together in the most loving and intimate connection on ALL levels of their being. Who could read one another’s thoughts, finish one another’s sentences, etc.

Some of that can be cultivated in a relationship, but some has to be there from the beginning.

I myself don’t think of the REALLY worthwhile “connections” as having much to do with common interests. More with common values. Even more with common senses of life. Communication via the  Internet can only begin to hint at such things about a person.

I believe that true intimacy or closeness requires of both people the courage to be self-expressive, to be transparent, and to receive the other’s expressiveness and transparency in allowing, accepting ways, not judging. You have all that in spades. Thus, your chances of a truly deep relationship are better than average, IMO !!!

One way of conceptualizing or modelling connection or intimacy or whatever we are talking about is to use the physical model of RESONANCE. We resonate with other people, in various ways to various degrees. We are always hoping for more ways with more degrees from one person !! [The strength and areas of resonance possible in person are exponentially greater than via the Internet or writing or phone…..]

At one point in my life I gave up thinking I would find complete resonance for all aspects of my own vibrating/Being in one person. I will always feel “fragmented,” therefore. Never able to share ALL that I am in full resonance with any other ONE person. I have just accepted that. [As you said, expectations create disappointment, frustration….]

What, with age, I have no tolerance any longer for, is adapting. If i am going to be really close to someone, we have to be quite comfortable with one another just the way we are, from the beginning. The person has to fit me “like an old shoe” from the beginning. Exactly as you described how you felt around that girl.

You said
a part of me that is eternally dissatisfied with all of existence

and I’d like to ramble a bit about that. I see that as the root of depression, probably for you, perhaps for everyone. And that dissatisfaction with all of existence is something Buddhism describes very well and at great length, perhaps starlight can give some examples or references.
 
As long as we live within the illusion of separateness from the One Being in many forms, we will have that eternal dissatisfaction, nay, even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror of believing or experiencing separateness, because that separateness is not our normal, natural, true state of Being. It is an artificial and temporary creation – a project for a purpose – by some Beings, whom we are creations or parts of. But deep down we know there is “something wrong with this picture,” and the resulting sense of life is most unpleasant/dissatisfying/terror-filled/depressing.

Makes perfect sense to me that some folks like you are not willing or able to numb themselves to this “existential” condition of (common) human consciousness. Depression is inevitable. It is in fact sadness, IMO. Sadness is different from depression, because sadness is about something, it has an object or cause. In this case, IMO, the “cause” or “object” is the experience of being separate.

I have to add a caveat that to me separate and distinct are not identical. People can feel distinct and individual even after they awaken from the illusion of separateness.
 
One other way of being “eternally dissatisfied with all of existence” is to be a perfectionist. I am one of those, down to the atomic level of my embodiment. There is never a moment of perfect satisfaction with the way life is, I am, things are. That perfectionism is based on illusions, though, and in fact I am mostly healed from those. But I thought I would mention it, as it’s a different source of “eternal dissatisfaction with all of existence” from the separateness-sense I just described.  

Well, thanks for allowing me to blather on. I was able to put into words some things I had not been able to articulate before, so thanks for the opportunity. If my words are meaninful or even useful to anyone else, that would be very pleasing and satisfying to me !!!!

Blessings, OM Bastet

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
1 day later

1Vector3 said

Gotta edit this for precision:

I said
even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror of believing or experiencing separateness,

I meant to say
even a primordial terror which it hides from our full awareness, the terror which is an inevitable consequence of believing or experiencing separateness
— not the terror OF believing, but the terror FROM believing

Say this is a dynamite thread about such a common human concern. OK with you if I donate it to the Collective Wisdom library??

Marmalade : Gaia Child
1 day later

Marmalade said

Yeah, Mike, there is an underlying sadness.  I’m sure my relationship experiences aren’t unique.  In the examples I gave, I was mostly focusing on a transitory stage of my life.  I’m much more settled now, but the feelings I felt then aren’t really different than what I feel now.  Even in less transitory relationships there is still a gap.

And I also agree with starlight about the fear thingy.  Thats become clear to me in recent years.  The desire and fear of intimacy go hand in hand.  I’ve observed it in myself and in others.  I sense some kind of truth in the longing to connect, but I can’t say that I know what it is.

Marmalade : Gaia Child
1 day later

Marmalade said

Om, I’m sure nothing you share will be trivial.  I completely agree with what you say about lurking vast oceans of uniqueness.  I tend to think of it as a fundamental truth, but there is a cultural component.  Its hard for me to imagine what a society would be like that didn’t have intimacy issues.  Sounds like a nice place.  I’d like to visit there sometime.

I like using the word resonance.  The fragmentation you mention is something that I feel within myself whether or not a relationship is involved.  That is something I didn’t mention in the blog but which I’ve thought about recently.  The disconnection between people is akin to the disconnection between aspects of the self.  I don’t know if that makes sense.

Related to this is dissatisfaction.  Longing to connect corresponds to the dissatisfaction felt withn.  These are two sides to the same coin and I see it as spiritual.  Buddhism has it right about life being fundamentally dissatisfying.  Dukkha is often translated as suffering, but it makes more sense to think of it as dissatisfaction.

You’re description of this is perfect.  Calling it dissatisfaction is an understatement and maybe that is why dukkha gets translated as sufering.  Whatever it may be, its a profound experience.  Primordial terror… those words get at the sense of it.  I understand your interpreting it as being a result of the illusion of separation, but I’m not sure what that means.  Its disconcerting.  What is the feeling of separation?  And what caused it?  I’ve felt inklings of a deeper unity, but I don’t remember a time when I ever experienced it fully.  I do have the sense that something is wrong with this picture… which implies there is something that is right.

I’m pretty sure you’re correct that sadness isn’t the same as depression.  But Its hard for me to distinguish them in my own experience.  Depression is such a complex thing.  What is causing what I do not know.  What I do know is that my depression has always had a component of loneliness, of something missing.  Do I have a depressive personality that leads me to be open to that experience of dissatisfaction?  Or has the experience of dissatisfaction after enough years led to a depressive way of being?  Or something entirely different?  Its all confusing to me.  I could imagine being depressed without being sad or being sad without being depressed, but its all mixed up for me.

I guess that this is a decent thread.  You can donate all you want. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
1 day later

Marmalade said

I have a previous blog which relates to some of the views being discussed here.

Zen Great Doubt, Existentialist Angst, and Gnostic Longing

starlight : StarLight Dancing
2 days later

starlight said

hey ben and all…that link had some very relevant context…something to really think about, and of course i did…and here is what i awoke with today…maybe it will be helpful, maybe not…

that longing we feel, is the longing to connect beyond surfaces…the dissatisfaction occurs when these connections do not materialize in the way that we had hoped…or when they do, but do not last…those emotions are processed and stored, and can really prevent us from making another effort at connecting beyond surfaces or beyond our safety zone…and can once again leave us with that melancholy longing to connect…but the fear of remembering can keep us at that precipice…and so we get comfortable in our limited condition…even when it has unpleasant aspects…simply put, we remain on the beach b/c we KNOW there are sharks in the water, we’ve been bit before, and so we don’t JUMP IN…or make the effort beyond a certain point…we sometimes even convince ourselves that we are just fine getting a tan on the sand…while we watch from the sidelines…others swimming, having fun, touching, laughing, living, breathing…loving…each other…

i have found that it is much like anything else…we connect every day…on surface levels…like the internet…it is really up to us to try to connect at a deeper level…sure there is always the risk that you will run into a brick wall…but it is like anything else…when you turn your computer on and it does not connect right away, do you give up and throw your laptop against the wall, or do you keep trying?  it always comes down to it being our own choice…

the most difficult thing for us to do it seems, is to do something different…but that is where the potential for creativity comes into play…and great works of art manifest…

in my experience, it has become very easy to remain in my own little bubble of bliss…even though, periodically, i feel the lonliness…

since i am not a buddhist, or a member of any other religious organization, and i rarely go any where, except online…i have learned to be content with discussing things of intellectual interest with those here at gaia that seem to think along the same lines as i do…and i write my poems…i am attracted to realistic and critical thinking…but i am not without my spiritual being…i just refuse to label it and put it in a box, and so, i am a loner of sorts…

but that is my choice…and until i decide to take a chance and venture out of my own little box…there is no way to make deeper connections…afterall…awareness is not going to slide them under my door…LOL…much like your link suggests…i have to dive into the abyss…feel to heal, and keep it real…diving in the abyss, or living ones life amongst the living…brings opportunities to face more conditioned behaviours…which brings opportunity of more awakening and freedom…

there is one thing i will say concerning suffering…it is much different then pain and sadness…we are humans…being…pain is to be felt…so is pleasure…getting trapped in those feelings is what brings suffering…

much of the time it comes down to this:

i have to just put my big girl britches on…and walk through the fear…

thnx for this thread Ben…your honesty on these subjects helps to open up and shine a light on those tendencies within us all…if we are willing to look at these things honestly within ourselves…then that reveals the potential to do something different…where a deeper connection is always possible…much joy, always, star…

starlight : StarLight Dancing
2 days later

starlight said

check this out ben…just a view from my box…LOL

http://tlcoriginals.gaia.com/blog/2008/11/connecting

thnx for all the inspiration on this thread…always, star…

Marmalade : Gaia Child
2 days later

Marmalade said

I read your comments here and I read what you wrote in your blog.  I’m too tired to give any detailed response, but I can say that I didn’t disagree with any of it.  Everything you said generally resonates with my own view.  I don’t think I can add anything further that would be insightful.  🙂

I do have some other thoughts that have been on my mind, but I don’t think they particularly relate to anything you mentioned.  Maybe I’ll try to write about them later.

Nicole : wakingdreamer
3 days later

Nicole said

Ah, those sun-filled days. That blog seems like such a long time ago on this cold winter’s day filled with snow. I have enjoyed our blog chats so very much, my friend Ben.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
3 days later

1Vector3 said

You asked some questions I need to respond to, but for tonight all I can manage is to post this link to the donation of this blog+comments to the Collective Wisdom library.

Blessings, OM

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

Ben, this is really a fascinating consideration.

Other types like in the Reiss profile could be added. Or whtaever.

Its always isnt so far away from so called real F2F world.
A new kind of vireality is emerging. German iInternwet Entrepreneur Paulus Need once described it this way. True intimacy is a process of crstyllization. Of deep values. Of timing in ones bio according to the life cycle one goes through….
And it may change through the years.

According to ones individuality. See for example the label “Integral” Is suggest some homogenity of people who use it. If we would choose randomly 1000 people from across the globe ..we would see 1000 different fingerprints of using it.

Then checking this cohort after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years again:

The picture will have changed radically.
To be honest, genuine and open, authentic and in connection with ones own purpose and authentic case..will ALWAY bring people in connection. Sometimes in unpredictable ways.
Bon voyage, Ben!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

OM – I hope this discussion lives up to being collective wisdom.

Albert – Surprised to see you here.  Did you see this thread from OM’s linking to it? 

Anyways, no need to “bon voyage” me quite yet.  I’m still here and I’m not rushing to leave.  I am looking around at other options.  One thing I’d like is to have a blog that gave me more control of the format.  Some networks give you the ability to create categories for different subjects or for differing levels of security.  Even if I did blog elsewhere, I’d still come back here to visit.  I won’t abandon ship entirely.

I hadn’t heard of Reiss profiles.  That is a new one to me.  Thanks for telling me about it.  I did a quick search and it looks interesting.  Would you mind telling me more about it?  What is your interest in it?

I dig what you’re saying.  Its a different perspective than what I was focusing on, but is equally relevant.  I particularly like what you say about “connection with ones own purpose and authentic case”.  Yep!  I like authenticity in myself and in others.  For sure, life is unpredictable… like it or not.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
3 days later

1Vector3 said

What the heck is “vireality?”Sounds  ominous or interesting.

Ben you young whippersnapper, are you questioning my judgment????? This thread is already collective wisdom or I would not have put it into the library. So it doesn’t have to “live up to” worthiness on your HOPE !!!!  (stands with arms akimbo, glaring and with fondly smiling glint in eyes and playing around mouth.)
 
Know what you mean about formatting options on blogs. I’m getting into creating my church’s blog on blogspot, and I do appreciate the incredible creativity possible there. For example, a palette of colors for each of over a dozen elements of each blog! Even slideshows, just select the gizmo and put in the pictures !!!! Of course, it’s all a matter of funding here, our devs are working as hard as they can.

I’m very happy to NOT be appropriately wishing you Bon Voyage. Just Bonne Nuit, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

OM

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

Ben..lol..I just randomly picked up the thread.

Bon voyage simply means for me pursuing ones own odyssee. No matter where and in what realms. Every single day is a voyage in itself…

We need new maps for communication and connections of all kind. This hyperspace has so many dimensions. And I have given up the search for a TOE in communication. I love the unfolding mystery and simple experience of it..

A business partner once offered me to make a Reiss Profile. It reveals interesting points. However as I know dozens of typologies…they are not really triggering me. I am interested to see how reality is manifesting itself. And how deeply people are aligned to their authentic self.

If necessary even in a crazy and non consensual way. Spiritual, poltical and sexual correctness is bad and limiting syndrom for me. Maybe necessary for some mainstream consensus.

Your post is relevant as it opens even the door to questions about communication and comunion. As KW does in some writings. So it should not surprise you to see me here. …)

Albert  : Warrior
3 days later

Albert said

OM,

vireality is the Moebius stripe like interconnectness of virtual and real worlds. Emerging and evolving not as alternate realties but  as DNA like Double Helix.

Kevin Kelly has lots of it explored though not naming it this way.

The quote of Paulus Neef can be found in the inspiring book of German writer Bernhard von Mutius:

Die Verwandlung der Welt

www.dieverwandlungderwelt.de

Do not know if it is translated into English already.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

Partly because of my mood recently, I’ve been visiting some of the other groups I belong to.  The first groups I belonged to were typology and they’re still some of my favorites.  I know quite a few people from the very first community I belonged to and one of my favorite people happens to be visiting there right now.  Typology forums create an interesting environment where many people end up being very open about their personal lives.  It can make it easy to get to know people very quickly.

One of the people I know from the INFP forum is now mostly a pen pal meaning we mostly only communicate via e-mail.  She actually visited here once and even posted briefly on the God Pod, but she is too busy to spend much time online.  I was talking to her about how I was feeling about online communities.  Because she lacks the time, she understood how difficult it is.  She was saying how it takes a lot of effort to really connect to a community.  I know that trying to belong to multiple communities to satisfy all sides of myself takes way too much effort.

All of this made me think about two general categories of communities.  There are very focused groups that limit themselves to a single subject or to a single type of person.  And there are more general groups that emphasize the social networking aspect.  I suppose Gaia sorta falls somewhere in between, but probably a bit more on the focused side in that the original purpose of Zaadz was very focused and this influences the type of person that joins.  I guess most communities are focused in one way or another.

I prefer focused groups overall in that its easier to find people of a common interest.  But it leads you to interact through that one dimension.  On a typology forum, everything can turn into a typology discussion.  Gaia is more diverse, but even here not all sides of myself get satisfied.  Then again, no group probably exists where all sides of myself would be satisfied.

However, there are more general networking sites that contain focused groups.  Gaia somewhat achieves this with its pods, but its active pods represent a fairly narrow focus.  Bigger sites like Live Journal or Ning are the best examples of general groups.  On these networks, you can potentially meet anyone who has joined, but you can get as focused as you want by deciding which groups to joiin.  Ning, for instance, has groups for almost anything.  Ning has some small groups and it has some very large groups.  The groups I belong to at Ning include two integral groups, a philosophy group, and Netflix’s official forum.

However, I don’t know how well Ning does in encouraging people to connect across groups.  Gaia does this fairly well, and there are some other companies that specialize in this.  I believe that SocialGO and Multiply are networking sites that help individuals to more easily connect beyond mere group participation.

 Meenakshi : ~
3 days later

Meenakshi said

Ben, I came here through the collective wisdom pod.

Your blog is wonderful for me,as you can explore and share your feelings so clearly. This is one aspect of my life that grew later for me. In fact, it is still not grown, as I find maybe one person I can really open about feelings. Like starlight, at heart I am a loner. Or perhaps a lONEr. Interesting how that is, eh? One surrounded by left and right?

A large part of it, is because when we feel, we come fully into one experience. I have to be fully Meenakshi and only me; as you have to be fully you; and we are then separate and different.

When this happens, and we feel separate, others rush in [in a manner of speaking], and fill in the picture. Nicole comes with her warmth, Albert with ideas, and so on… As I read each comment, some resonate, some don’t, but seem like distant parts of a universe to which I belong. They show me paths to explore further when I am in a bon voyage mood–in the way that Albert describes it. So for me, community fills in the aspects of the wholeness that I leave to come into my feelings. When I look around me from the ground, I see all the people that I am or can be or won’t ever be or was; and I know that all this is that wholeness that OM has described so beautifully that it completely resonates. Because she wrote what she did, I don’t need to do that, and that helps me to go into another aspect.

So within the world experience, I know that somewhere there is deep loneliness, and I know that elsewhere there is deep communion.I use my inner guidance to “connect~don’t attach” to these experiences, feeling each as seems called upon.

 In loneliness, I connect to others who are lonely; which changes the energy to communion at a higher level. In communion, I hear the voices of loneliness, and can connect to that in healing. So as these feelings help with the flow of energy, all those philosophies make sense, each feeling seems relevant and having no-one to fully relate to; is exactly what helps me to relate to ONE.

Bowing deeply to you all, for this connection.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
3 days later

Marmalade said

I skipped over Nicole’s comment.  I’m getting too many commentors (with some long comments) to keep up with them all.  Yes, Nicole, that blog does feel like it was a while back.  It resonates quite well with tis one, but it didn’t get as many comments as this one.  I just realized that some of my most popular blogs are those where I complain about community and relationships.  I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.

Welcome to the discussion, Meenkashi!  At heart, I’m a loner too.  My best friend is also a loner and we often enjoy being alone together.  🙂  Oddly, I’m more social online.  :))

 Meenakshi : ~
4 days later

Meenakshi said

I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.–good 1!

HeyOK : Bridgebuilder
4 days later

HeyOK said

Hello there Ben-
You say, “I guess community is a favorite topic in this community.”  That sums it up so nicely.

Wanting to connect and using the means available to do so, wondering what the connections mean and lead too.

I’m thankful for the points you’ve made and the sharing it’s brought.  Thank you for that!

Blessings, David

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

Hey HeyOK!  lol  I couldn’t help myself.

I’m glad people have enjoyed this blog and the discussion.  For me, this is something that is often on my mind.  I seem to be always thinking about relationships both on the small and large scale.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

I’m a fan of really long threads and so I’m going to add some more slightly related comments even though I’m sure I could start another blog at this point.

I’ve been perusing reviews and comparisons of the many social networking and related sites.  Its partly out of curiosity, but it definitely goes beyond that.  This all relates back to the subject of this discussion.  I originally picked Gaia to blog because of its community aspect.  Blogger and WordPress have better blogging capabilities, but they’re not community oriented.

My recent research about blogging sites has been more thorough because I widened my focus.  The first time I was looking for a place to blog, I only compared the few most popular sites.  The one that competed with Gaia in my attentions was Live Journal.  Some of the people I know from the typology world are on Live Journal and I do have an account there.  Gaia edged out Live Journal on one account.  The people here are maybe overall older and along with this maybe with more serious discussion such as with the Integral sector of this community.

Many of the more socially oriented sites cater to those of the younger generation.  I haven’t seen statistics, but I’ve heard people say this in reviews and it resonates with my own sense of such communities.  Similar to Live Journal is a blogging site called Xanga.  I’ve heard some people say that Live Journal isn’t really a blogging site, but I don’t know what they mean by that.  Maybe they mean in the way you can just keep your writings private.  Anyways, Live Journal is mostly like a social blogging site which is what Xanga is.

Okay… so, why am I bringing all of this up?  The thing is that I like to write, but I also like to have responses with some depth to them which can only come from getting to know others.  Its a balance in that I’m writing for my own purposes, but have come to enjoy the interactive aspects of being on a forum.  Social blogging seems like a happy medium.

However, everything is a tradeoff.  The blogging sites that are less social have the best blogging capabilities.  A place like Gaia has its advantages, but in many ways is a smaller community with a more limited focus.  The social blogging sites are very attractive in that they strike a balance between a large network and small groups, between blogging and social interaction, but they attract a younger less mature crowd.

Xanga stood out to me as having some potential.  It sounds like it emphasizes the social side of blogging more than any other site out there.  The concept of it is very innovative, but supposedly its filled with adolescent girls who write about adolescent girl types of things and without all that fancy punctuation and stuff.  But some people like it and if your friends are already on it, then the masses of youngsters wouldn’t be too bothersome.  Like anywhere, you certainly could find some very good bloggers there… and you’d just have to ignore the rest.  Then again, what good is the ability to socially connect easily if you don’t feel similar to most of the other bloggers?  The cool thing is that you can personalize your blog and connect your blog to blog rings of people of similar interests.  So, blogs can become more interactive.

If I was only interested in my own writing, I’d almost certainly go with Blogger.  Its easy to use and has a lot of flexibility.  Gaia is nice in a social sense, but the people I know here are mostly people I’ve met here.  The advantage of Live Journal might be that I know many people there who are members of other forum sites that I enjoy.  Ning is another one that interests me because I know some people there and already belong to several groups on it… besides, its the best network that does what it does which is a lot, but I’m unsure if its a place where bloggers connect with eachother much. 

I do have to choose, but choices don’t need to be absolutely exclusive.  I could blog at Blogger for purposes of giving me greater flexibility with my writing, but I still need to explore because Ning and SocialGO may give even greater flexibility as blogging can be integrated into a multiple page site that can also be a group network.  Whatever is the case, where I blog doesn’t have to be where I socialize.  I can connect my blog to the sites where I socialize.  For instance, I have my Gaia blog linked in the tag line of my posts at several of the forums I visit.

My writing is my main interest even before the enjoyment of being a part of a nice community of interesting people.  Most simply, I just want to write and community can even be a distraction from that.  And yet I’m drawn to connect maybe even because its a distraction from being too lost in my own thoughts.  Balance is key… I guess.

Ain’t life funny?  Oh, the dilemmas!  It probably doesn’t matter too much.  Maybe I just like endlessly considering my options to no end at all.  lol

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
4 days later

Marmalade said

I just had one other thought.  I promise… its the last… for tonight that is.

A big thing for me about a site is the feeling of it.  This can have a lot to do with how the site is set up, but its more about the social aspects itself.  What is the purpose of the site, the purpose of the person(s) who started it?  What are the rules and how do the moderators keep order?  What kind of person does it attract, how do they interact, and what do they discuss?  What is the culture that has developed?  Is it stable and are the people committed to it?  Does it have cliques or is it friendly?

My assessment of Gaia is that its one of the most open and welcoming of communities I’ve belonged to online.  Its very laid back.  The only site that compares is the INFP forum.  Both of the sites have people who are very self-moderating which translates as that they attract people who value as much how they relate as they do what they discuss. 

That magical element of self-moderation is extremely rare.  Even many ‘spiritual’ forums I’ve been on lack this.  I know from experience that less laid back forums can just be tiring even in the most basic of interactions.

The challenge in exploring new sites is that you often can’t know the feeling of it until you immerse yourself in the community for some length of time.  Looking at reviews and comparisons can only point me in the directions of possibilities, but I still have to directly explore those possibilities.  I’m just going to have to play around and feel it out.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"
5 days later

1Vector3 said

I have only a moment to spare this morning, Ben, but a couple of responses: I have often wondered about the other social networking sites others find valuable or interesting, but I feel SOOOO monogamous with Gaia Community I haven’t gone exploring. I really appreciate your doing the legwork and reporting back your perceptions !!!!! :))

Endlessly exploring possibilities…. Hmmm….. I vaguely recall that might be an Intuitive thingy?  :))))) Or you might be a Gemini. We do that too. I feel claustrophobic without options – even though as I just gave an example of, I can sometimes settle on one and be quite loyal……. Most of the time I just love exploring possibilities, but then I end up ranking them for usefulness for some purpose, and seeking to apply or implement. That’s why I am Sensation and not Intuitive…..

On Thanksgiving Day, I include you amongst my blessings.

OM

Marmalade : Gaia Child
5 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, OM.  I understand the monogamous attitude.  I felt entirely at home with the INFP forum which was the first I joined.  I thought of it as my online home, but it had obvious limitations for my interests.  Unlike Gaia, it was smaller and less active, and with a less stable community.  Using your metaphor, my monogamous partner wasn’t always in the mood and so I went looking for others to satisfy my needs.  I learned polygamy has its advantages.  lol

You are correct, though, that endlessly exploring possibilities is more of an Intuitive thingy… in particular, an Extraverted Intuitive thingy.  (Its a blessing and a curse.)  But nope I’m not a Gemini… Sagittarius in fact.  Sagittarius are of the travelling sort, so they say, which can either mean travelling in the physical sense or the intellectual sense depending on the whol Extraversion/Introversion thingy.  I cover immense territory… in my mind.  🙂

Blessings to you as well… and blessings to the turkeys on this day of their massacre.

Marm

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer
5 days later

Marmalade said

Along with OM adding this discussion to the Collective Wisdom pod, Meenkashi also added it to a new thread she just started in Gaia Networking.  This is explicit advertising for Meenkashi’s thread.  Go there and add any other blogs on community, interaction, communication.

Blogs on Community, Interaction, Communication