Humans are inherently social beings. Human behavior is something that we touched and tackled during my undergraduate studies. And I remember reading this particular quote from Atul Gawande during one of my late-night research binges for an assignment we had.
"Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people."
This quote sort of resonated with me right now. It's so easy to find company these days; so effortless to surround ourselves with the presence of other people. Sometimes, it even becomes too easy in the sense that we don't even realize we're drowning in the middle of a busy crowd while our restless being wanders alone in solitude looking for a real connection to something other than passing acquaintances or brief hellos.
Gawande said that human beings need social interaction and not just mere social company. You can be in a room full of people and still feel lonelier than when you're with one friend. However, it can also be argued that people engage in social interactions in more than just one way. Others crave physical assurance while some may be content with understanding glances. It varies from person to person but still, one thing remains the same: the experience of this "interaction" (in whatever form it may be), is a requisite to human existence.
I was in Kuala Lumpur a few days ago and I had this strangely enlightening conversation with my cab driver during rush hour traffic. He said that people nowadays treat relationships very callously. People enter relationships, romantic or otherwise, with the intention of making it work for only that moment in time. But when the going gets tough, it's so easy for many to go back on promises made while high on happiness. My unbelievably wise cab driver said that, more often than not, a handshake is often light, a brief contact between two palms, two souls, that rarely conveys the intention of getting to know the other person. Instead, when you shake a person's hand, you should grip it firmly with the intention of pulling the other person towards you, towards sharing stories with you, towards forming a real lasting connection. Frankly, I dismissed his unsolicited life advice as I was in the middle of a really bad migraine. But thinking back on it made me realize how much sense he was making and how I wished I could have talked to him some more. Maybe he has some more advice in that cab to get me out of my rut.
As I put these random thoughts down and try to make this a post worth reading, I began evaluating my own relationships. How much of my self have I shared with the people around me, with the people I consider friends? How much of them have I accepted and woven into the tapestry of my own life? Or are they merely loose threads on the edges, easily pulled, torn off, and forgotten?
Which brings us to the point of this entire post.
Humans, although inherently social, cannot live on the number of social connections they make. In order to have a life filled with meaningful relationships, one must be willing to make an effort to lose a part of themselves and in return gain something through a soul-melding connection made with another human being.
And in that, I think you may have just gained everything.