Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Right to Privacy, or Self-Isolation?

“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant” -Bishop Desmond Tutu

While I was growing up, people related to one another differently than they do today. Everybody knew everybody. As annoying as it was that your neighbor knew whom you were going out on a date with before you did, the closeness served a purpose: We all felt like we were part of a big family.

Then I grew up; I moved away, and times changed. In eleven years living in my first house, I probably met six neighbors; in my current house about eight. In fact, rather than meeting them, I should say we have passed one another while walking our pets or children and smiled cordially. No warmth there, aside from a pasted smile after a long day at work and a standard, automated greeting.

People of our generation have become isolated. They meet on predetermined social occasions, and maybe even talk on the phone often, but the camaraderie of having a “Rhoda” busting through our unlocked door is something that’s only preserved on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show.

Regardless of race, religious beliefs, political affiliations and other societal boundaries, we are all human beings and all are on the same boat sharing a journey. Larger cities with a high density of population such as New York or LA are even worse - millions of people live there, but many of them keep a constant shield in front of their hearts, afraid to meet or talk to a stranger.

We hide and isolate ourselves to be safe, to have space, to protect our rights to privacy; yet all that we are doing is creating widespread loneliness. Human beings have an innate need to connect to one another – whenever we go in the opposite direction, honoring fear, doubt and unfounded judgment, we do not do ourselves any favors. If we could take down the shield and show who we truly are – exposing the core of our weaknesses and strengths – we would be surprised at just how many people share our same feelings. Once the connection is made, everyone feels better simply by knowing they are not alone – someone understands what they are going through.

Why can’t we connect the same way with everyone we meet? Do we need to walk up a mountain to know the path is steep? In order to expect others to open up to us and be willing to connect, we have to start with ourselves. We are all unique and important in our own individual ways, yet we are all fruits of the same tree – there is no reason for us to fall so far apart.