Watching people get in and out of rowing boats, demonstrates how far we still have to travel as a species.
People totter as if in a drunken stupor, mystified by the unpredictable rocking of this small wooden vessel, which when placed in water seems to break the laws of intellectual motion. Puzzled expressions reveal the cognitive struggle as passengers seek to compute this inexplicable movement which seems to defy understanding and rob mere human beings of basic balance and all dignity.
Other passengers seek to assist, so duos and trios dance in a tentative grippy melee. Each tries to support or save another, but with each slight grip, stagger or reach, the equilibrium is once again threatened and the dance continues as if almost perpetual motion.
Someone reaches for terra ferma. One leg on land adds a new dimension to the dance as new forces come into play and all try to compensate for the mix of wobble and solidity.
We can cure all manner of illness. We can transplant someone’s face. We can send probes to the other side of the universe and we can sense sadness in someone without words to express it, as if by telepathy.
Yet put us in a small boat and we become as fragile and inadequate as a paper spoon.
He appeared normal. He spoke and behaved just like anyone else. The fact that he had no heart was very well concealed. Well, that’s not entirely true. He did have one. It was just not in his possession at the moment. And this is where the story gets complicated. The woman who had the darn thing was blithely unaware of the fact. Well, that’s not entirely true either. She knew that she’d left the relationship with more stuff than she’d entered it, she just hadn’t done a proper inventory. Regardless, his dilemma remained the same. A woman had absconded with a vital organ and the gnawing emptiness he felt was a direct reflection of that vacancy…
Chuck Lorre – Big Bang Theory
The point here is that our organs misbehave, or go awol. Sometimes our breath is caught, sometimes our stomach flips, sometimes our throat temporarily holds a lump which will neither be swallowed, nor be ejected. Sometimes our heart flutters like the wings of a gently rising butterfly. Sometimes our mouth appears to have lost all ability to contain moisture, a vital lubrication which seems, sometimes, to have inappropriately descended into the palms of our overly damp hands. Sometimes our eyes leak and we cannot stem the flow, however hard we try. Sometimes our gut aches, like an ever tightening knot, dipped in an acidic solution. Sometimes our jaw aches as if the laughter will never end and we are in its grip forever.
Bodies, organs, chemicals, breath, feelings, emotions … being.
As human beings we are drawn towards people because of similarity, or sameness, and because of difference.
There are no rules about how much of each. No guidance about the levels or attributes of the sameness and difference, but seemingly we seek a smattering of both. A balance. Not equal, but a balance nonetheless.
For a relationship to become more than just there for a transitory reason, a casual acquaintance or one formed for a specific work project or short term activity or hobby we need sameness and difference. We may circumvent this need in the short term. We can cope. Make adjustments. The temporary nature of the relationship maybe allows us to be more forgiving, or maybe we simply don’t care as much? Or maybe there isn’t actually a relationship at all?
However, for longer term relationships, working harmoniously together, a need for sameness and difference emerges if the relationship is to blossom and last. Maybe the sameness can come from shared values, shared goals? Maybe a similar posture to work – being a completer/finisher, or having an attention to detail? Maybe the sameness comes from a shared philosophy on life, or from similar hobbies or lifestyle? Maybe the sameness simply comes from being an early morning starter? These are not of course, solely the criteria for sameness. They may equally apply to difference. A big picture thinker may connect with a detail deliverer, and vice versa. Someone with a different philosophy or orientation to life may value the difference of another perspective (many mentoring relationships work well in this way).
So there are no ‘rules’. There is no formal contract. No tacit agreement. Not even a verbal contract… or even a discussion. Often not even a conscious awareness. Like many uses of the ‘iceberg’ analogy, this is all below the surface. Invisible. We just somehow know.
And maybe like an iceberg, that brings dangers?
Maybe we should surface this more in relationships?
I read recently about an ‘origami robot’ that unfolds itself to perform remote controlled surgery in the stomach. It has just undergone laboratory tests.
The small rectangular robot is ingested in a dissolving capsule and then steered, using magnetic fields, to patch a stomach wall wound or to collect a foreign body, such as a swallowed button battery. Using magnets rather than a tether to direct it, provides greater flexibility and control.
Wow. Science is amazing.
But, how come we can do this, yet…
we can’t cure loneliness?
we can’t stop people worrying?
we can’t stop human beings commiting self abusive behaviour?
we can’t give people their self esteem back?
How many more people worry, or are lonely, or have low self esteem in comparison to those with stomach wall tears or those who swallow batteries?
Come on science, let’s pay attention to the emotional and psychological too. We need you to do great things for us.
We have a wren nesting right outside our living room window. It’s a bay window and there is a climber running up the side of it – a passion fruit, glorious in flower. The nest is in the climber. We can watch the wren, from barely 18 inches away, entering and emerging, singing as it goes. Oblivious and care free.
I think the wren is my favourite bird. Discreet, unobtrusive, inconspicuous. Busy in its own life, flitting, industrious, always moving. Its perky little tail its only nod to ‘look at me’, here I am’.
Maybe these are qualities I value in other human beings? Maybe I value them in myself? Maybe these are things I aspire to, or respect, or admire?
How do we decide these things and why do they matter so? Who knows? Something to be curious about though? Maybe a little birdie can tell you?
Thank you little wren.
I travelled into London this morning by train. I arrive at Paddington, a busy station in the rush hour.
Leaving the train I noticed something I have experience before, but usually I am irritated by it, whereas this time I was curious.
As I stepped from the train, I found myself bumping into fellow travellers. Passengers who had exited the train from an adjacent door or another carriage further down the train; these people were passing along the platform ‘hugging the train’, rather than choosing to move to the centre of a wide concourse, away from disembarking passengers.
I was struck by this behaviour and the potential metaphors for human existence and interaction…
Staying close to where we’ve come from, our roots.
Not exposing ourselves in the throng of humanity and diversity.
Taking the shortest route in life.
Focusing on self and not noticing others.
Being in our own head and not present in the moment.
Staying protected and safe: using a train as a barrier.
Travelling tried and tested paths; the route the train took.
Seeking the beginning or end of our journey.
They seemed plentiful. I may stay curious.
Flashing amber lights are a familiar sign of the need to proceed with caution.
On the roads at junctions, near schools, at points for pedestrians to cross, in roadworks. On the back or top of vehicles, as warnings or indications of intended direction. At building sites, airports, stations.
What a shame we don’t have them at the junctions and intersections between human beings. Alerts to slow down, stop, be wary, proceed with caution.
Yesterday I walked up a busy Edgware Road. I was walking quickly to get a train from Paddington and the pavement was thronging with commuters, shoppers and locals frequenting the many Lebanese eateries.
In front of me was a lady carrying a heavy shopping bag on her left arm. The arm was hooked double to support the seemingly weighty contents. Her right arm was projected out, away from her body at 45 degrees, presumably as a counter balance. The counter balancing arm was obstructing my path and frustratingly making it difficult for me to slip by.
After a few seconds, I stepped out into a space to overtake and nearly went head over heels as a fellow pedestrian walking in the opposite direction was tugging a wheelie case that had escaped my attention.
I suddenly became aware of our personal space. My space and that of those around me. The space we each occupy, not only with our physical bodies, but also with our chattels, our possessions, our accoutrements.
I wonder how often we notice when we invade others space, or when we cause them to divert?
This wondering returned twenty minutes later when a commuter on my train whacked my shoulder with a laptop case thrown over their shoulder. But was I leaning into the aisle? Was I invading their thoroughfare, or were they invading my space in my seat?
And now I notice I have described it as my space and their space and introduced the idea of ‘invading’… strong words.
Personal space clearly matters.