We’re disconnected. We are all out at sea. Awash in shell casings and the hatred our parents thought they’d put to rest, we don’t see eye to eye. And so this has become that thing that must be missing.
What if that’s not all?
We Americans are the stuff of Hollywood, and we prefer our catch-in-the-throat endings to seem surprising, so long as we can bank on them.
Life, though difficult riddle, needs be solvable; we rest in the arms of this inevitable salvation.
So we are, right now, quite foreign. The man or woman next to us seems so much different than those dorm room romances that seemed at the time to be so far from home. And in this analogy exists a clue… just maybe.
You see that dorm, that faraway transit station… We chose to be present in those moments of elsewhere. In that way, the disconnect was not only acceptable, it was expected.
Who among us asked for where we find ourselves today? Via our technology, we are closer than we’ve ever been before. Have you ever felt so alone?
And so no matter how alike us our neighbor may sometimes seem, the way we didn’t choose this isolation makes us seem all the more adrift.
Dice throws, gun shots, white lines of salvation. We do just about anything to assert ourselves on a world where we’re otherwise invisible.
But then the horror happens. We witness it “together” – our hashtag wakes last, sometimes, entire afternoons.
We see, in these moments of less lonely, that what we’re really missing is an understanding of our neighbor.
Bridge building, bipartisanism, every city has a name for it, but we assume what is missing is the full power of a collected Us.
And so we unite, or at least anoint this the missing piece. The great If Only… It only leads to our next accusation.
We assume that in seeking our commonality we’ll somehow find the urgency to overtake all that ails us. Except we each have burdens that are themselves so foreign… How could my neighbor ever care about mine? How can I then care for hers?
We assume that to know one another would begin a much-needed thawing. Maybe we’re right. But what then? What if, due to a lack of common challenge or even context – just too many years spent not knowing – we still don’t even see how (or why) we can save one another?
You think this is lonely? We, the wounded citizens of the former greatest country on Earth face to face with this week’s moment of greatest need… It couldn’t be worse, could it?
The only thing worse than this loneliness will be the reality that gangs of us will still not feel familiar. We long for teammates but value little more than our lineup cards. A list of names does not a family make.
This may still get more hopeless… And what we use to fill that void will say more than any hashtag, more than any virtual fist raising.
I came to realize that the one you’d been before, a person I’d never known all that well, had changed into the kind of person for whom I wouldn’t mind putting the kettle on… Still, I don’t know what I can save you from.
– Kings of Convenience (paraphrased)
We do need the connection. We do need the shared moments. We do then need to listen, for it isn’t the fault of one we’ve never told if they fail to know what it is we need.
And in that moment, kettle steaming between two who were just yesterday strangers, a new conversation will commence.
Will it carry answers? Only if we both care about the other’s problem.