Shanti Emerson: Treasure the connections
Memories of the 2019 Nevada County Fair are as soft and pink as cotton candy.
There is no line in front of Job’s Daughters corn dog booth now, and the blue fiddle has flown back to Arizona. The exhibition buildings hold no more jellies or paintings and the music and animals are gone.
One memory sticks with me. On Friday, I was walking through the eating area behind Treat Street and was overcome with emotion. It was the sight of a couple of hundred people sitting at picnic tables having a great deal of fun. The smiles and laughter and sounds of chomping into corn dogs and baked potatoes is still with me. A grandmother tenderly hugs a tiny baby. Another grandmother is being pushed in a wheelchair by her loving granddaughter.
But it was all about connection … connection of families and friends. All through the fairgrounds were people hugging each other and catching up. That is the memory that has outlasted all the rest.
I realized that connecting with others is the greatest joy we have. When we lay on our death beds, we won’t be thinking about the cars we’ve owned, where we’ve lived, or the money we’ve made. We’ll be thinking of the dear people we’ve known.
A couple of weeks later, I was at another event at the fairgrounds. It was also upbeat and the sun shown brightly. Yet I felt terrible. All those happy people, and I didn’t know anyone. It stabbed me like a knife. I was disconnected from this group.
After a short while, the uncomfortable feeling passed, but I wondered about what it would be like to have that painful awareness all the time. Do some people always feel like outsiders?
Is this the emotion of the men who buy assault weapons to shoot people even children they don’t even know? Is this how people feel when they overdose or hang themselves?
If you’re lucky, you have a supportive family and close friends. If you’ve been abused or neglected by your own kin, you will have difficulty relating to others through no fault of your own.
The cruelest punishment in our penal system is putting a prisoner into solitary confinement, separating him from others.
I think of the great job NEO is doing to be there for teens and tweens every day after school. I wish such a group had been around when I was young. FREED has the Friendly Visitor Program which matches homebound people with those who can get around for weekly visits.
At church we join a group of caring people and see them week after week. They become our extended families. We have a choice of over a hundred service clubs to link up with, many of which help others less fortunate than ourselves. Working with these groups can make us happy and content.
The down side of deep connectivity is the loss of loved ones. When we lose a caring relationship either through death or a breakup, the grief can be unbearable. Sometimes we miss that beloved person for years or even forever. But as Alfred Lord Tennyson so aptly wrote, “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
We need to treasure our close relationships as they can be lost in a second.
But then there’s the wider world of connectivity, where we can walk into a stadium or concert hall and feel a part of a big group of music fans or of a political movement. These are people we don’t even know and yet we feel united. Sometimes we may even feel in union with the rest of our country or even the world.
The words of John Lennon come to me now. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
I end with the words of Albert Einstein who implores us to connect with a much wider circle: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us.
“Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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