The world is changing rapidly. We hear this all the time, always have and always will. When you realize how much things have changed, from black and white to colour televisions and from mega computers to smartphones, let alone modes of transportation, it is evident that the world is expanding fast. You can now fly from Montreal to Paris in 6 hours 45 minutes. You get immediate news when a major world event hits anywhere on the planet. How different it was when our ancestors arrived at the “Nouveau Monde” by boat. In this day and age many people are moving around, coming, going, travelling, e/immigrating, visiting, passing, transiting, arriving, leaving, settling, displacing, etc. We live in a fast moving world where we cross unknown and unfamiliar people more commonly than before. That’s certainly the case in most of the big cities where many nationalities join and where the stress level is usually higher due to the fast pace of life.
Technology has been a great invention, can’t imagine living without it, but it controls most of our daily activities if we allow it to happen. So many people addicted: sitting across from each other and conversing through their phones instead of just talking to each other; looking at the world through their phone instead of seeing and experiencing the world directly. How is this affecting our connection with other humans and with the world in which we live? This powerful photo speaks to this:
So do we need to think about the way in which we can deepen our relationships with the world around us? As a Nepalese Sherpa once said, “Many people come looking, looking. You come, see.” (Rowell, 1986). How much are we allowing technology to affect our human relationships? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against technology. I, too, keep in touch with many friends and family all over the world through social media. Technology helps me stay in touch, perhaps on a superficial level but at least on a certain level. It helps me realize that we are all interconnected. It allows me to receive news about the growing kids, to know what’s happening to my extended family, to stay informed when someone is having a special life event (one of my former grade-1 students just got married last week. How exciting!!!). How fun to group chat with my sisters, family, friends, students, and colleagues. My phone is a great tool for communicating with my dear ones when I’m near or far away, for snapping quick visual information with my camera, for audio-recording important moments, etc. I can say that I am in touch with a much greater number of people than before all this communication was possible. When travelling for months at a time in India in the 1980s, I remember calling my parents once every week or two, if the lines were working well. That wasn’t that long ago really. How much it has changed!
But what about talking to people in the street? To strangers, the homeless, beggars, immediate neighbours, schoolmates, coworkers, family members, etc.? It seems that people keep to themselves much more nowadays, more than before this technological revolution. When we pass a stranger (a person with whom one has had no personal acquaintance http://www.dictionary.com/browse/stranger), oftentimes we look away to avoid eyes crossing. We can talk about our common, or not, languages, identities and diversities which make our human family so rich, but how do we communicate with people we don’t know? How do we make that first connection with them? I’d say, for most people, it’s through our eyes, our smile and our open heart. This is our humankind’s universal language. That’s how we can reach out and communicate with others. There are many “unknown” (not known yet) individuals around us. As well, there are countless people with whom we are directly or indirectly connected, linked, related, interrelated and interconnected simply because of life’s circumstances and because we are social beings who need others in order to survive, to fulfill our needs and to subsist. There is certainly great beauty in our oneness and our togetherness.
In spite of our differences, humans all have the same necessities wanting to be happy, healthy, fed, warm, safe, loved. Don’t we all have this desire to belong and be part of something? So, the question is: How can we build a world that embraces our basic diversities and great commonalities at the same time? Did Saint-Exupéry (1946) uncover the key to a peaceful human race when he said “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”?
I would like to conclude with something a friend of mine just published on his Facebook page, as it pretty much sums up what I have been trying to explain:
“La violencia no para, por ninguna parte. No está toda la solución en mis manos. Pero en lo que a mi toca, voy a continuar saludando a los demás, deteniendo la puerta a desconocidos, cediendo el paso en el tráfico, siendo paciente con una mesera y sonriendo a un extraño, tan a menudo como se me dé una oportunidad. Únete a este movimiento mostrando amor y respeto hacia los demás, sin importar quiénes sean. Encontremos nuestra propia forma de mover la balanza en la dirección del bien común. Hoy, tristemente el odio parece estar ganando la batalla. Yo no lo voy a permitir, en lo que a mí toca. Copia y pega en tu muro y así seremos muchos los que estemos colaborando.”
“Violence doesn’t stop, anywhere. The entire solution in not in my hands. But as far as I’m concerned, I will continue greeting others, holding the door open for strangers, giving the right of way in traffic, being patient with a waitress/waiter and smiling at a stranger, as often as I’m given the chance to do so. Join this movement showing love and respect for others, regardless of who they are. We can find the way to move in the right direction for the common good of everyone. Today, sadly hatred seems to be winning the battle. As far as I’m concerned, I will not allow it to happen. Copy and paste this on your wall so that many people will work together towards this goals.” (author’s translation)
Rowell, G. (1986). Mountain light: in search of the dynamic landscape. Sierra Club Books.
Saint-Exupéry, A. D. (1946). Le Petit Prince. Bourges: Gallimard.