Strangely enough, there were even lonely people amidst the masses.
(The Little Buddha)
Next year around this time we will count seven billion people on planet Earth. 7 billion! That’s a lot of people!
With the world getting that busy, you would think that we are moving closer together. Well, physically we do. But emotionally? We have incredible communication systems, but do we feel connected? Are emails and skype chats enough to satisfy our emotional needs?
For me, sometimes they are. But most of the time they’re not. I always call it the curse of globalisation: Having great friends all around the world, but not being able to popp by for a cup of tea. And it’s not only friends. Families are spread out thousands of kilometres apart. Sharing life in the traditional way becomes difficult that way. Sharing those special moments that make us feel happy human beings. Because for these, we need humans. A computer screen doesn’t do it.
I live in the countryside, five minutes away from a small village. I have a garden, orange and walnut trees and plenty of space. I can put the music as loud as I want, pretty much whenever I want. There are some friends around and I know the names of my neighbours and of the guy I buy my flour from. So far so good. But – and of course there is a but – the village is of the villagers. It doesn’t feel like my village.
Not long ago I was walking with a friend through his hometown, and he greeted an old teacher. For me that was a really nice example of community. Of being connected with those around you. I know that unless I move back to my hometown I won’t be able to experience the same. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.
Of all the people I know, maybe 10% live within a fifty kilometre radius. 10% is better than nothing, sure. But it really sucks not having the other 90% closer! Sometimes I wish I could get all the people I love to live together in one area. But unfortunately that’s impossible. No matter where I go.
You could say that all this is my personal issue, because I live alone in the countryside. And yes, sitting by myself in an empty house in the winter can be quite depressing. But really I don’t think it’s only me. Almost everybody I talk to is looking for a place where they might be able to settle down. A place to slow down, live, share, create, maybe even grow old. A perfect village. And while there are many different factors at play, in the end it’s always a question about people: Where can I find enough friends to feel at home?
I guess one solution would be to become really rich, buy a big plot of land and get everybody there. Once my book is a bestseller I might come back to this option. In the meantime: What to do?
Another possibility would be to move back home. Home in the sense of ‘where I grew up’. Problem is, who is left there? Almost everybody has moved somewhere. So unless lots of others would go back as well, it wouldn’t be an improvement. That leaves us with two options: Going to look for that ideal place somewhere, or staying where you are and create it. Searching or settling. Giving up or trying. Starting something new or recycling the old.
I feel that whatever we choose, the challenge is to (re)connect with those who live around us. To create meaningful relationships in a sea of seven billion. To build communities. To make friends.
If nothing else we need to be hopeful. Maybe one day we are living together in that perfect village. Or we will have created lots of perfect villages all around the globe. Just like in the old days. A real community. Where you can meet your best friends for a chat any time.
Not on facebook.