Monday, October 7, 2013


This talk/video has to be one of my favorite RSA Animates. If you take nothing from this but this talk, even if you don't read beyond this point, I would be happy so long as this video gets out there. The concept of empathy is such a powerful one, and this shows just how broadly the concept can be applied. And there was a point made that hit home for me:

There is no introspection without outrospection

It is no secret that I am a huge advocate of introspection/self-reflection, even self-love. Being honest with yourself about your thoughts and emotions is essential - if not necessary -  to know where you yourself stand in this world, not where you are told to stand or even where you are merely placed. But it is true that in this day and age that cannot happen without outrospection. If we are not open to the world we cannot truly understand who we are. We cannot delve deep into our souls in total isolation and expect to enrich our lives in the process. We need to look outside ourselves also to further enhance our lives; not to look in search for something to cling onto but to open ourselves up. We need to understand what goes on around us just as much as we need to understand what goes on within.

More and more I find that there is little value given to true human relationships; simply bonding with fellow humans on a pure, honest, genuine level. Even when we are close to experiencing it, we hesitate, we turn away, we build walls and fortresses out of fear that it is not the norm. But it is, at least it should be. People do focus (not so well) on familial relationships, professional relationships, romantic/marital relationships but we need more. A lot more. 

“The things we need most are the things we have become most afraid of, such as adventure, intimacy, and authentic communication. We avert our eyes and stick to comfortable topics. We hold it as a virtue to be private, to be discreet, so that no one sees our dirty laundry. We are uncomfortable with intimacy and connection, which are among the greatest of our unmet needs today. To be truly seen and heard, to be truly known, is a deep human need. Our hunger for it is so omnipresent, so much a part of our life experience, that we no more know what it is missing than a fish knows it is wet. We need more intimacy than nearly anyone considers normal. Always hungry for it, we seek solace and sustenance in the closest available substitutes: television, shopping, pornography, conspicuous consumption — anything to ease the hurt, to feel connected, or to project an image by which we might be seen or known, or at least see and know ourselves.”

Charles Eistenstein, 
Sacred Economics

People think of the word 'intimacy' and blush, referring to bedroom antics as intimacy. But it's so much more than that, and should go well beyond a single room with a single person. Creating a strong bond with a fellow human on any level is what makes life worth living. Even fleeting connections with mere strangers could be just as powerful. And I believe simply being able to have such strong, powerful, lasting connections with people is an accomplishment because it doesn't come easily. It actually takes work and requires a lot of trust and openness that not many people are ready to give. I feel people rarely invest in relationships that are not romantic, expecting all their human needs to be met by a single relationship with a single person. Even when they do, they feel the need to make it romantic thinking having a connection like that with someone could only be such. But I'm here to tell you it is not. Don't let such ideas cloud your judgement either. It's almost as if we have been conditioned to believe that having a closeness with someone is rare and eventually turns physical, leaving many to believe having close friends of the opposite sex is 'dangerous' for this very reason. I strongly beg to differ. We need to rid ourselves of such ridiculous and archaic preconceived notions. Clear our minds of such ideas, go forth with an open mind and an open heart, then we can truly understand our limitless capacity to love. That's when our empathetic nature truly thrives.

The thing is, even the relationships we do have, we do not give enough of ourselves. We don't put nearly enough effort into it, we expect it to just fall onto our laps. Every relationship requires a little work. As you give, so shall you receive. You cannot expect your friend to always be there for you when you are never there for them. You cannot expect your parents to love you unconditionally if you do not love, respect, and take care of them in return. You cannot expect your children to grow to take care of you in your old age if you did not love and nurture them as their parent. You cannot expect a spouse to cater to your every whim if you never consider theirs. (Read about how this man came to that conclusion after nuptials and kids. Better late than never!)

When two people meet and find that initial spark, they foolishly think that this chemistry continues to react forever. The way I see it, that reaction is a result of the state each person is in upon meeting, basically both being what the other had been wanting to find. Having found that person, the spark from the first chemical reaction is gone. The 'state' of each person has changed, creating a new compound altogether. Rather than trying to figure out what new chemical reaction might occur, how to deal with it, if it requires any catalysts for a better reaction, they just stubbornly want EXACTLY what they had before. If we want to approach it scientifically, it's impossible to relive that initial spark so long as they are now a 'compound' (and remain so). That infatuation is what attracted you in the first place, and that is the main role of infatuation. Infatuation could just describe what happens as a result of the pheromones released. If we were to continue with the chemistry analogy, infatuation would be that electromagnetic force that initially creates the chemical bond.

Armed with the misconception that the spark must last, some people may search to recreate it elsewhere. Chasing what is essentially a fleeting emotion rarely ever stops at one person as this cyclical search continues every time the spark begins to fade. We need to redefine what it is we are expecting to feel, be it 'love' or whatever you want to call it. We need to have a more realistic understanding of it, and consequently more realistic expectations. We need that radical social change to take shape on a large scale so that we can all live a little better, be a little happier. Everyone deserves to be happy, and it is within long as we revolutionize how we choose to view and experience human relationships on any and every level. No biggie...

Finally, I would like to share with you something I personally feel is the most fascinating, bizarre and potentially revealing thing I ever came across in our dear World Wide Web. A 76-year-long study followed 268 Harvard graduates from 1937 in the longest-running longitudinal study to determine the factors which affect human (adult) development. Turns out, what matters most in life are warm human relationships. That also had a positive effect on almost every other aspect of one's life from health to professional success. George Vaillant, the study's most recent director, said one thing he learned from this study is:“That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people". Don't wait 76 years to come to that realization when you could have spent it being happy.

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