I try pretty hard to surround myself with people who think like I do. Not all the time, of course, because how, then, would I improve myself as a human being? But my blog, my Twitter friends, my gaming circles, even my facebook is, for the most part, made up of people I can speak to easily and debate with readily. On paper, my social life is wonderful, and (as a general rule) I am satisfied with the life I live and the world I’ve created for myself.
But then, some days I realize that most of the people with which the crystalline turrets of my life are painted are no more than anonymous entities from behind lit screens. For the most part, my life is a beautiful mosaic created from computer monitors and avatars. A lovely whirlwind of text-based communication and headset-gifted laughter. I have work acquaintances too, of course. People I see in the classroom and in hallways. I make jokes and have delightful conversation during lunch. But there will always be a degree of professionalism in the workplace, and a sense of anonymity in the cyberspace. The true “me” is as rare and beautiful as a precious jewel—perfect in its splendor, but forever encased within stone or glass.
At work, every word I say, every presentation I offer is filtered keenly through the ever-present reminder that you are a professional. I love my job. I love my students and the lessons I teach. I love my subject matter and the amazing realizations that come from studying the evolution of our societies through the literature that has been left behind by those who came before. But I am always mindful that I must not be biased. For every pro-life viewpoint I give, I try to give a pro-choice counterargument. For every mention of biblical references found in classic literature, I try to also quote the Quran and Torah. My days are a wonderful tumbleweed of equal-opportunity facts and political correctness. My nights, in contrast, are filled with savage truths and gushing opinions crafted gracefully from 26 squiggly letters that are somehow meant to portray an emotion that cannot be jammed into something as unfulfilling as the English language. It is a life filled with many types of fulfillment. It is also filled with varying degrees of satisfaction. I do not think I would ever call it “empty.”
And then tonight I did something crazy. I went to church. It wasn’t even my church (if such a thing truly exists anymore. Click on this tag for my views on organized religion and why I’ve been labeled a heathen by many). But, at a friend’s request, I attended Mass and was reminded of something that I did not realize I had lost: The grace and beauty that comes from being in a room surrounded by people who want nothing more than to believe in something with you. There were no agendas, no masks, no painted smiles or tip-toeing conversations. Only the serenity and strength that comes from being surrounded by a group of people who are accepting. And it was beautiful.
Maybe church isn’t your thing. I get that, and I don’t feel you need to defend yourself. If that is the case, then do not turn to church to find that unity. I ask only that you look for something out there that allows you to converse and interact with other people who want nothing more than to accept you for you. Maybe it’s poetry readings or movie nights. Maybe it’s karaoke or time alone with a significant other. It can come from anywhere, but you must find it somewhere.
In a universe where we are more linked than ever before with people all across the world, we have lost the simple but beautiful phenomenon that is human connection. I hope we find it again. Soon.