May 23, 2013

From our first breath, we seek connection. Newborns blink against the bright lights, then scan their surroundings until they catch sight of their parents' faces. Their eyes light up as they fix their gaze on a loving countenance, investing themselves in this growing bond.

They use their hearing in the same way, listening through the noisy din to recognize the sounds of familiar voices they have come to know already. 

We open our world to curiosity about others who inhabit it. Babies watch toddlers, toddlers reach out to one another, preschoolers create playful scenarios together, school aged kids build their worlds around each other, and teenagers align themselves with their peers just as they do their families.

Our worlds become larger over the span of our lives.  Adulthood is attained when we leave the selfish focus of our own small circle to begin to feel connections with others around the world.  We internalize the experiences of those far away whose names we may never know.

We swell with admiration for proud accomplished athletes in the quadrennial Olympic opening procession.  From Albania to Uzbekistan we watch and imagine the joy each participant's family must feel. In such grand moments, we celebrate the unity of all men and women around the globe.

But we also feel the pain of this connection.  When children starve in Ghana, we feel the loss. When a tsunami wipes out a village in Taiwan, we shed a tear. In the human family, we all belong to one another. A loss for any of us is a loss for all of us.

And so human tragedy on our own shores strikes sharply into the hearts of us all. Recent events in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Texas join the long list of occasions in which we are reminded of our connection to each other.

This is the human condition.  We must connect just as we must breathe.  Our connections with each other create our pain, but also our joy. And the solidarity with each other we cherish must be comfort enough to dispel our fear.