When we take a close look at our most inherent needs we discover that, other than food and shelter, our most common need is love – to love and be loved. We only have to look at our hopes and fears for confirmation of this. Just scratch the surface of our beings and we find one of our biggest – the fear being alone. This runs not just at the surface of our humanness, but deep in our shared psyche. The fear and perception of being separated from the source, from our mother and from each other causes us to generate protective beliefs and behaviours. Despite the deeper truth that separation is an illusion – for we truly are an all-connected field of life – we deeply feel the need to belong. We only have to look at the success of online social sites such as Facebook to see that need in action today.
That we perceive separation (consciously or unconsciously) causes us to feel great anxiety. We are compelled to behave in ways that make us distinctly human – we may become possessive, jealous, controlling, hateful, or violent. It is a false perception to feel apart from others and the world, which often brings about such various degrees of unease, but it doesn’t have to be like this. We can also be motivated for the good of the whole creation and everyone: we can be kind, generous, supportive and compassionate.
Psychological research has revealed that one of the greatest fears we all have is most deeply linked to this need for belonging. At some level we are terrified of being ostracised: judged as unacceptable and rejected by those we most want to belong with – our closest family and friends and society. Perhaps this explains why Facebook has become so successful: it responds to the innate human need to connect and belong. A recent video created by Facebook ends with the dramatic statement: “The universe is vast, and dark, and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things is to remind ourselves that we are not.”
This statement is quite profound and far-reaching. Facebook is both an example and evidence that we are not separate. It is a tool through which we, as individuals and a society, are perhaps using to try to re-awaken our selves to the truth that we really are all connected. Of course it has its limitations and concerns, for example it is quite disturbing that one-seventh of the world’s population is spending an average of up to one-third of their time online – having increasingly less real life interaction with society and friends. And there are many who spend an even greater amount of time in the virtual world.
The ‘virtual’ nature of Facebook makes it such an interesting display of our polar natures. It is indeed a forum that exposes ALL human attitudes – those who seek to criticise and ridicule, and those who seek to inspire and unite. These dual aspects of our humanness makes us potentially destructive – or deeply empathic and connected. The work of artist Marina Abramovic is a particularly telling demonstration of our potential natures. She performed two significant pieces of ‘live’ art. In the first she wanted to test the limits of human relationships. Marina placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours she remained passive – and unengaged (not making eye contact) – allowing the audience to do as they chose.
Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained passive) people began to act more aggressively – ultimately reaching its breaking point with someone pointing the gun at her head. This became a famous example of relevance to psychological research – revealing the strong inclination for humans to digress to destructive behaviour when personal and engaging connection is absent. The same thing happens with mob mentality.
In stark contrast, Abramovic performed another live piece (over 736 hours), called ‘The artist is present’, in which she invited spectators to sit and gaze into her eyes. The dynamic was so overwhelming – bringing tears to many peoples eyes – it sparked the need for support groups to be established. The most commonly reported feeling was one of a deep, unexplainable soul connection.
Interestingly, Facebook sits on the edge of both personalised connection (sharing private moments and details with large groups of people) and the impersonal (lack of direct living interaction), reflecting the diverse range of our human behaviours. Its enormous success proves that our need to connect is very real. It is our awareness of this need that paves the way for us to enter into a more meaningful life.
Our ability to connect – and the depth to which we connect – is dependant on the way we connect. When we are deeply present, centred in our self, centred in the moment, we are most capable of being deeply centred – and deeply connected – with another and with life as it truly is. The encounter is one that is unifying, uplifting and enriching. It is also the only way in which we feel a power that is greater than our individual sense of self (between ‘our self’ and ‘other’) – but rather the sense of a unified soul.
When we are connected in this way only love flows – it is impossible for feelings or acts of violence to arise. Our ability to foster more deeply connecting encounters with each other could be the very thing that steers us towards a world of greater peace and wellbeing. And our ability to foster a more deeply connected state within our self will inevitably re-awaken us to the Truth that we really are ONE life.
Self-awareness without connectedness with the whole can be quite unfulfilling. However, self-awareness combined with communion provides the foundation for real hope – it gives us a glimpse of the potential we really have… to live a love-filled life.
Perhaps this is why the Buddhist faith espouses the virtues of sangha (living spiritual community) as the highest principle for human development. And, whether we are spiritual or not, it is evident that the more connected we are – in our self and with each other – the happier we are.