In Touching the Void, Joe Simpson described how, when he believed he was dying, the prospect that bothered him the most was that of dying alone. By that point he wasn't even trying to stay alive. But he still was trying to reach other people so that, when he died, he would be with someone. I found that very moving.
We humans seem to have a deep need for connection.
Yesterday I felt discouraged. I did not want to discuss my issue with my local friends, because they were facing the same challenge. I thought it might be more constructive to share my dilemma with someone who wasn't caught up in the drama, so I e-mailed a friend in another city. This morning he called me via Skype, and we had a video conference.
My friend refrained from trying to fix things for me. He just listened. I found it very comforting to be heard. I don't mean that my friend registered the sound waves coming from my voice or that he understood the meanings of the English words I was saying. I mean that he conveyed the impression that he recognized the reality I was experiencing.
The encouragement that I feel following that conversation has caused me to reflect on the meanings of words like courage, encourage, and discourage. Courage comes from coeur, the French word for heart. I believe that, when we display courage, we are enlivened by our core (heart) values. When we encourage another person, we help him or her to tap into those deep resources. Conversely, if we discourage someone, we introduce a barrier that makes it more difficult for him or her to access his or her inner strength.
I believe it takes courage to live. If Joe Simpson's experience is anything to go by, apparently it also takes courage to die. It seems that, in either case, an attentive witness facilitates our communion with our true self.
To me, local relationships are vital. The Internet could not have replicated my experience of dancing with my fellow cohos and our guests last Friday night.
But, with that having been said, technology has created avenues of communication that overcome some physical limitations. The alphabet, the telephone, e-mail, video conferencing, Internet forums, instant messaging, blogs, etc., make it possible for us to share and acknowledge each others' lives across time and distance.
I appreciate community, whatever form it takes.