I may not be as smart as I once thought I was but I do feel more connected to the world. Apparently, my childhood history books were filled with lies and Pluto is no longer a planet. The things I once took for granted, like my transistor radio and the phone booth have vanished. When I was small, the thought of folks in far away countries was well, far away. Not anymore. It now feels like everyone is my neighbor. My little bubble has burst but my circle has opened wide thanks to technology.
Last week, when that mother in China gave birth to a son and then threw him off a bridge, I could feel her pain. There was even a picture of the underbrush where her baby landed safely and was rescued from. Still, how did she get that desperate? Surely she had neighbors. What of the father? Was she connected to no one who could have stopped her? It is the same question I pondered when my own uncle put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Psychologists say it’s all in how we’re wired but I’m not so sure. I think our connection with others is equally paramount. Plenty of us have loose and crossed wires but we don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater. We are anxious, depressed, manic, withdrawn and neurotic but we carry on. Many of our most chaotic minds succeeded brilliantly and did not succumb to their afflictions: Isaac Newton and Beethoven were bipolar. Lincoln and Tolstoy suffered terrible depression. Theodore Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman were epileptic. Even Charles Darwin had severe mood swings that led to crying jags.
The news today was about the mental health crisis the pandemic has wrought. Suicide and murders are up significantly. And yet? Aren’t folks singing from their balconies and playing Ping-Pong between apartment buildings? Aren’t they marching for justice and equality together despite the threat of a deadly disease? We humans are a crazy concoction of conundrums but when we’re connected, we’re stronger.
50 years from now people will likely wonder how we could have been so backward and misguided in 2020. I know, because I feel that way about me 50 years ago. Still, as much as things change, much remains the same: a smile, the kindness of a stranger and a sunrise. Those things are immutable and connect us.