What’s on my mind…as Facebook queries…is not independence. Or even Independence Day. This 4th of July what is on my mind is interdependence, loneliness and connection. Over the past few days I have been resting up, napping and sleeping long hours. Recuperating, in a way, from the marathon of workshops I have facilitated from last December. In between reading detective novels I have been listening to Brené Brown interviews on YouTube, as well as reading some of Maria Popova’s Brainpickings that have dropped into my email inbox. And in the way that things happen the themes of loneliness and belonging all coalesced. Hannah Arendt writes that loneliness is “the common ground for terror”. So, that “terror…ruins all relationships between men.” I guess she meant that to cover both genders and used it in the sense of the human race. That was how they styled the language in the 1950s and 1960s when she was writing.
Brown, in her National Cathedral sermon in January 2018, mentions that loneliness is so endemic that in the UK in 2017 it was recognised as a public health issue. Loneliness is a greater predictor of premature death than all the smoking, excessive alcohol imbibing, overeating and no exercise that are the usual warnings.
Arendt (and Popova) note that tyranical regimes and totalitarian regimes weaponise loneliness. They sow disconnection. Brown tells us how they do this – by dehumanising people, often those that we disagree with, by making them out to be somehow subhuman. That was what Hitler did. But we also do it, maybe not on the same scale, maybe in microagressions, but we still do it. And this dehumanisation of others is the the real public health and public discourse plague.
So, this 4th of July, that is what is on my mind. How lonely people can be angry people. They are certainly isolated and alienated people. It is a wonderful belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of Deity. But it is hard work to actually walk that talk, especially when the beliefs and actions of some are anathema. It can be hard work to discover where that divine spark is hiding. Yet, that is the work of being a human.
Poetry practice today is a mash up of Brown, Arendt, Popova, John O’Donohue and Rumi.
The Inn of Great Happiness
It can be awfully lonely
in your tribe
even if we all subscribe
to the same codes,
those screeds of belief. But
if we have not love
written into our tribal DNA
then it's all out of key.
It's good to sing with strangers.
It's also a good thing
to break bread and drink wine
It's a good thing to get together
even with the ones who really irritate.
Like Mom said, " Be polite."
Talk about the weather.
Ask after their health,
that of their family members.
Be Kind. Pass the cookies. Or more wine.
It takes some practice
this being human.
It's all about there always
being a room ready for
So check your larder and linen closet.
Make sure some sheets are aired.
Plump up the downy pillows.
Have the instruments tuned and prepared.
(Don't disturb the cobwebs
because some spiders are guests there.)
Sing into the night
as they become like family
if not quite like friends.
Sing into the new day's light
until they become our family,
blood of our blood, bone of our bone,
until it's not just pretend.
until we all comprehend
this being human.
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Feature image Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash