Most of my friends are spiritual seekers. They’ve questioned the values and goals they grew up with and over the years, have pared away much of what they learned about life. But when you do that, what’s left? If homes and cars and clothes and ambitions are not important, what is? If values like patriotism or being good, or obeying the laws of state or church have lost their meaning, what has got meaning? What is the point?
I keep asking that question of friends. The answer usually involves some variation on connection with others.
Deep connection with others seems to make life worth living. Those moments of uncompromised love, where we touch each other’s spirit make life its meaning. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the love of a parent for a child, friend for friend, partners for each other. It’s the connection that counts. The relationship may not be on-going, or a relationship at all. It may be little more than an evening out with acquaintances or work colleagues. But the connection of spirit to spirit is there, even if only for an hour.
Now a days LA is a place where I change planes on the way to somewhere else. But years ago I spent a week in the city. I got bored looking at the stars on Hollywood Boulevard and quickly changed focus. The people I met then were Catholic Workers who staffed food kitchens. They were illegal immigrants who depended on free food to survive. They were transvestite prostitutes working the underside of Hollywood, or migrants one step up from homelessness. In the home of the Oscars, poverty is plentiful. In the ground zero of suburbia, I found some of the most memorable connections of my life.
I find it easier to make those connections among people who have questioned the values and dreams of suburbia. They’ve asked ‘What’s the point?’ Or they’ve had the question thrust upon them by life. Many of them live in those little boxes that line the grids of cities. But they’ve pared away the ‘truths’ they grew up with to get closer to the answer.
I suspect however, that more is stirring beneath the surface. Another question, perhaps. Or the same question applied differently. What does making a connection with another human being really do for us?