HAP Posted May 21, 2013 Report Share Posted May 21, 2013 Dear friends, We humans are social creatures. We depend on each other for virtually everything: food, clothing, shelter, physical and emotional support. The cruelest punishment we can deliver is not the death penalty but solitary confinement. Isolation destroys us in ways no noose, needle or electric chair can. This winter I went to the world premier of a play called Social Creatures, a comedy about a world dealing with zombies. The audience—with one exception—found the play very funny and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t—and it has taken me until now to figure out why. None of the characters in the play knows what causes people to become zombies. They know that regardless of anything else that if one of their group begins to show signs of becoming a zombie the others must kill—or exile--that individual without hesitation. But humans have a tough time doing that to people they know and care about so the group has eliminated any but the most formal kinds of interactions. Even husbands and wives have dispensed with first names—calling each other Mr. and Mrs. There are few social bonds among humans stronger than family and, arguably, the greatest of those social bonds is between a married couple. They are intimate with each other physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways no one else is. Only the bond of mother and child rivals it—and in a marriage without children the bond between the partners becomes even more intense. They become each other’s world—a world in which virtually every social need is mutually addressed and nourished by the partnership between them. If that marriage survives for even a few years the couple truly merges into a single physical, emotional and intellectual self that functions nearly to the exclusion of all other social interactions. The couple may have friends, but those friends rarely—if ever—penetrate to the inner sanctum they establish for themselves. The precise turn of a particular smile can speak in a fraction of a second more than a thousand pages of text over the course of hours. Outside of the most intimate marriages no one has the time to develop and understand that kind of communication. Marriages that last require not only love but a deep and abiding friendship that one rarely sees outside of those kinds of marriages. But such marriages carry great danger within their structure. If death carries one or the other partner off prematurely the survivor faces difficulties the power of the suddenly dead marriage exacerbates. One moves suddenly from an environment that supplied all of ones social needs to one in which none are sufficiently supplied even in the days immediately after death when society as a whole is at its most giving. Further, if the marriage has lasted any length of time, ones external individual social skills have likely atrophied to the point of uselessness. Remember, everything you once did as a couple socially you must now find ways to do as an individual—and as simple as that sounds the reality is something entirely other I don’t yet seem to have the words to describe. I sometimes feel like I am back in high school trying to find the courage to ask someone out on a date—except that it applies to every potential form of social interaction with everyone. I don’t want to intrude on people’s lives. I am terrified of dealing with this level of hurt again. Nor do I want to find myself inflicting this kind of pain on anyone else. But sometimes I think those are only excuses I give myself in order to avoid the even greater awkwardness I feel around other people. I have forgotten how to talk to people other than Jane. I worry about what kinds of things will escape the door of my mouth that I will later regret—that will cause others to feel pain or doubt. Until I can control my own pain I put those around me at risk. All of which leaves me less social than I need to be in order to relearn those skills that will regain my ability to be a social creature. I languish most days in solitary confinement. I write, true enough, and that is a kind of social interaction, but it is a cold and distant one that lacks the intimacy of touch or even of gesture. While at the best of times my soul may touch another through this medium, it can never be a mutual touch in the moment. But as a starving man will not turn down a bit of rat or a piece of shoe leather I seize on whatever social interaction I can find. Some have suggested I work too much on Walking with Jane, Relay For Life, and the other charitable things I undertake. But while a level of altruism is involved in those activities, they feed my need for relatively risk-free social interaction as well. The conversations may be largely about business but there is a breathing human being on the other side of that conversation the sound of whose voice and the look of whose eyes give me a momentary social contact that is worth more than I can say. We are social creatures, ultimately. While I try to do my yoga—the poses I can still do—and meditate every day, they remain solitary practices. Each aids, to some degree, the healing of this deep wound. But the social piece still eludes me—and that frightens me. At the end of Social Creatures all the characters either become zombies or food for zombies. Their rejection of their social nature lies at the heart of their conversion. What for others was comic was, for me, tragic and terrifying. They chose the life I have been forced into—and suffered appalling consequences. I have no wish to be a zombie—or food for zombies. I am a social creature. Peace, Harry Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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