The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: community

Come Say Hi

“Why didn’t you come say Hi?”

Umm, it is a little tough to explain.

It is pretty likely that I was really happy to see you, as in literally “see” you. And I sincerely wish that your life is great, and everything is well at your end.

(I wonder, though… that if that weren’t the case, and if you were weathering challenges, would you tell me?)

And so, if we were to run into each other someplace, I suppose we would exchange pleasantries about the weather, mutual friends, children, school updates, etc. All important and significant details, I know. And I am good at this stuff, I really am. I learned early enough to converse, talk to strangers and acquaintances, make people comfortable. Someone once described me as being “delightful in most social situations.” But these aren’t my favorite kind of conversations. They feel rather onerous to me. I feel the burden of being “socially delightful.” It isn’t that I don’t care about you or your life; I genuinely do. But I don’t know if I am really interested in exchanging mundane details about our mutual lives.

Is any detail mundane, though? Not to the individual in question, no. I find the mundaneness in my life rather beautiful. It is comforting, grounding. But I am not necessarily excited about sharing it with others.

Does that make sense?

Also, I have come to think that I (or we?) am an outsider to everyone else’s life but my own. Friendly outsider, perhaps? So I can lend a ear, a shoulder… but can I do much else?

Maybe that is the point of these general encounters. To listen without judgment. To be a friendly witness, a silent and warm presence.

What I’d love to know is what you think about life. I would love to know about your imaginings, fears and victories. I’d like to know how you fell, and what made you rise.

But these conversations are organic, and best left unplanned.

Besides, not everyone is necessarily up for that conversation. So we continue to subsist on superficial talk. And it keeps things chugging along nicely.

Community, Solo

The last time I spoke with my sister, she brought up the topic of urban loneliness. Perhaps it is a recent phenomenon. It is fairly common for educated people in the developed world (any other qualifiers needed?) to have a large social network but not many close friends. Am I overstating it? Let’s rephrase. Not many people belong to communities any more. Ahh, that does not sound “proper” either. I think what I am trying (and so hard) to say is my own story.

These days, we hear a lot about the importance of social connection, community, and positive social interactions, all of which are linked to good health, longevity, mental fitness, and many other you-can-read-about-it-online benefits. Yes, I can see how that might be true. But what does one do when she isn’t particularly inclined to go join a community, engage in social interactions? What if she has to force herself to go to social gatherings and form connections?

Now, I wasn’t always like this. Or maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t particularly enthused about social interactions and connections and gatherings but I went along, like a sporting person, gamely participating in all that stuff. And now, maybe I am finally acknowledging that I am not a fan. I prefer solitude, quiet time, less talk. But if I don’t bother engaging with others, how can I partake of the benefits of community? How do I ensure that I remain mentally fit, free of inflammation and hypertension, loneliness and other ailments?

I can only hope that when I am in that kind of a situation, I will have the strength/ability to reach out. And a hand will reach out and grasp mine in return, no questions asked.

(Not having a child sometimes makes you think of the future in all sorts of dark, grim ways.)