Modern life

separations and connections

NASA picture from Unsplash

Life in the twenty-first century is a strange mix of being more separated and distant than ever before, and yet at the same time more connected.

For hundreds of years, the majority of people didn’t stray far from the village or small town where they were born. People lived in close-knit communities where everybody knew everyone else, and schoolmates turned into friends for life. You married the person who lived three cottages along, or in the next road. Local families knew each other and had history — good or bad; alliances were made and feuds raged on. You stayed connected.

Now we are scattered. Travel happened; boats, railways and aeroplanes all took us away from our home towns. My husband and I have sons living in Australia and China. I have family in America. My husband was born in India and I lived in Hong Kong. Even within my own country, our family is scattered the length and breadth of the country and we may only see each other once or twice a year for just a few days.

I have friends whose spouses are in different continents from them, kept apart by passports or work visas or family commitments.

Modern life is hard. We’ve lost that lifelong connection and closeness, that village. We don’t have the network of support from people who have known us forever, since we were bumps. It feels as though we are destined to live our lives always missing someone — a choice to move somewhere to be near one person inevitably means leaving someone else behind. Our families are fractured.

But we are adaptable and determined; we have created new support networks. We now have connections with people all over the world — and not just the family members who have gone away to have adventures. We communicate every day with people that we’ve never met, and are never likely to meet. We start out as strangers and become friends. We are different nationalities and may come from different ethnic groups, different socio-economic and educational backgrounds — none of this matters; in fact, it enriches.

I have friends across the world I exchange stories and experiences with and am connected to on a daily basis. We share and seek advice and encourage simply for the sheer pleasure involved in doing so. The internet has allowed people with common interests and goals to be part of each others’ lives, regardless of geography and time differences.

How exciting to live in an age where this freedom of horizons and friendship across borders is open to us. In a generation or two, this connectedness will be taken for granted, while a generation or two ago, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have imagined it.

It’s such a modern phenomenon, we’re still learning how to do it right. But handled well, this inter-connectedness makes an incredible difference to our lives, every day.

We’re no longer the lone writer, the lone vegan, the lone stoic; to borrow a phrase, “your vibe attracts your tribe”. We reach out and find each other, and the fracture heals.

This was inspired by an article by Louise Foerster, a fellow tribe member, and is dedicated to all my new friends.

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