Daily Paradox - Written by John Bittleston on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 22:53 - 4 Comments
The Social Shallows
An unexplained suicide is always sad. If we know why someone finds life intolerable we have a reason on which to rest our sorrow. When we don’t, we mourn for ourselves as well as for the person who died. Could we not have helped? Were there no supporters around to encourage?
We know we each have only a few real friends in life. That does not mean that our acquaintances are disinterested, merely that they get on with living their own lives. To know people takes time, relaxed discussions, shared values, mutual learning. Such time and intimacy are not available for everyone.
Much of life is inevitably a cocktail party, a hail-fellow-well-met greeting, a ‘contact’ in the address list. A wise teacher once said that people drift into and out of your life all the time and you should accept the fact and make the best of it.
So do we have only very little influence on each others’ lives? Quite the contrary, actually. The more people you meet the more chance you have of finding a soul mate, a business partner with whom you can work or someone to take fishing. So how do we make the best of living much of our lives in the social shallows? How should we prioritize our now vast network of contacts?
When our purpose, social or business, is clear we have no difficulty in answering the question. Most of the time our meetings with people are multi-purposeful combining a little of the social, some of the commercial and large amount of not quite knowing why we are meeting the people we are. The little girl asked to say grace at the dinner table and told by her father just to say what Mummy said prayed “God, what on earth possessed us to invite all these people to dinner when we could have had a nice quite evening on our own”.
Truth is, we are gregarious animals and like the stimulus of company and good talk. This is where our ideas come from, is what makes life interesting and fun. The connections may not be deep but the moment can be as close as you like. Albert Schweitzer said “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Mother Teresa knew it. When asked how many people she had helped she always replied “one”. When pressed that she had helped many, she said “No, I help one, the one in my arms at the moment.”
What a wonderful way to deal with the Social Shallows.
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by John Bittleston
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