• S. E. Burr

Loneliness and Reaching Out (The Power of Collaboration part 2)

So often I feel like I’ve reached out to someone and been bowled over, knocked to the ground, just like when I played Red Rover as a child, but I don’t want to be the weak link now...

“Red rover, Red rover, send Tina right over.” When I was a kid, we played a game called Red Rover on the playground. It’s not so common anymore; you may not have heard of it. It was a very high contact sport and a very dangerous game. Basically, there are two teams, each of which holds hands in a long chain. Someone from the other team will run at the chain, hitting between the two people that she suspects are the weak link. She sprints toward their clasped hands, using her body as a battering ram, trying to break them apart and get through, often knocking them down in the process. Neither strong nor willing to take a hit, I was not very good at that game. I let go pretty quickly if struck. I was often the weak link in the chain. In recent years, I’ve thought a lot about how Red Rover is a metaphor for life. (I actually included it as a brief scene at the beginning of Goblin Fruit for this reason.) One purpose for life that many of us can agree on is the struggle against entropy. As human beings, as citizens, as participants in organizations, as members of families, as partners in romantic relationships, as friends in friendships, we try to grab onto one another and to hold together as powerful forces try to break us apart. As organisms, we live through the organization and order among our cells. The struggle takes place within our own bodies, our cells trying to hold together as the forces of decay try to pull them apart, scatter, and destroy them. Everything we create, every invention, every new idea, every development of civilization, faces the same challenge. We build things up because the other side, which seems to be an aspect of our universe, an aspect of ourselves, is trying to tear them down. There is power in our connections to each other. This has been expressed a million times, a million ways. “We stand together or fall apart.” “We fall apart.” We’re trying not to fall apart. I’ve heard a lot lately about how loneliness is bad for our health and our longevity. It seems astonishingly bad for our happiness, as well, but people report having fewer close friends than was the case a couple decades ago. One reason for this seems to be technology, progress. I wouldn’t wish that away, and I don’t think it’s a force that breaks us apart, so much as makes it feel less necessary for us to keep reaching out to each other. In many ways, technology has connected us; we can interact with people across the world. We’re closer to each other than ever, but we don’t take each other’s hands. We don’t pull together. What can we do? In my last blog post, I talked about the power of collaboration. This is an extension of that topic, but we don’t have to connect with people through working on an artistic project. We can collaborate on a conversation, on sharing a bus ride, on building a friendship. So often I feel like I’ve reached out to someone and been bowled over, knocked to the ground, just like when I played Red Rover as a child, but I don’t want to be the weak link now, and I try not to be. I keep reaching out. “Let’s make something together.” “Let’s do something together.” “Let’s share an experience.” I make lots of invitations to people. One invitation I make to people is my writing. “Let me share these words with you.” It’s an invitation that’s turned down far more often than it’s accepted. My only advice is to keep reaching. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s frequently discouraging but sometimes wonderfully rewarding. Be around other people. You’ll often have to inconvenience yourself to do this. Join a carpool, ride the bus, walk. I don’t think I feel as isolated anywhere on earth as I do alone in a car, and there’s no other time when I’m as apt to wish that my fellow human beings would cease to exist. The powers of entropy are strong in automobiles. Go to events that you think might suck; join clubs you’re not sure you’ll like, volunteer to help people that make you feel uncomfortable. Some of my most meaningful friendships have been with people who I initially disapproved of in one way or another, people who seemed loud, or obnoxious, unattractive, or desperate, people who turned out to be far more kind, accepting, and generous than the well put together polite people I thought would make good friends. As Twenty-One Pilots says, “Don’t trust a perfect person and don’t trust a song that’s flawless.” It takes a lot of time and pretense to appear perfect. People like that don’t have time for me, and they probably don’t have time for you either. Hang in there. Whether it seems like it or not, we’re all in this together. Reach out your hand.

Book of the Week: (Yes I know I'm not doing these every week. Sorry!) The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky I got a bunch of kids' poetry books from the library, because I was exploring the possibility of doing another Kickstarter campaign for a children's picture book, and I thought it'd be fun to do a book of rhymes. I wrote 11 rhymes in the last couple weeks. It was a lot of fun, but I'm sad to say that I don't think we'll do this project, at least not right now. But reading The New Kid on the Block was a delight! Ride a Purple Pelican by the same author was one of my favorite books as a kid. The art work in this one is not as inviting, but the rhymes are fantastic. It's absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend it.

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