There is some irony in writing about human connection considering what the world is experiencing with COVID-19. At the same time it is important that we remember to “connect” with others. Isolation breeds loneliness and loneliness is not healthy for the soul.
Some years ago I read a book entitled Escape From Camp 14. It tells the story of a man that was born and raised in a North Korean labor camp. A true story. It’s a story of life in worse than deplorable conditions. It’s a story of survival. Survival through starvation, physical and mental abuse. Where nobody, including your own family, can be trusted. But through the horrors of the camp, and an ultimate escape, is also woven a tale of the human spirit. And the ability of the human spirit to dream and hope even in the darkest hell. A story that is difficult to comprehend living in the luxurious freedom we experience on a daily basis.
Because he was born inside the fence of this most notorious of all North Korean camps, Shin, the main character, has no concept of a world beyond the electrified barb wire fence, a world where people live free of the terrors that he is subjected to. One day he is partnered up with a fellow prisoner who has lived on the “outside”. As their bond grows Shin begins to hear about and understand that there is a world outside the fence.
That friendship changed Shin’s life. Where, before he had been wary and distrustful of everybody, he now allowed himself to trust one person. As the author states in the book; “Shin was no longer a creature of his captors”. In a sense that one relationship, that one connection, provided some freedom for him. He began to think “outside the box”.
This is similar to the “bonds of trust and mutual protection” that existed in Nazi extermination camps. Researchers have found that survival depended on “pairs not the individual”. Eugene Weinstock, an author that has written about these camps, states that “survival. . . could only be a social achievement, not an individual accident”.
There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. How often, when we struggle with issues in life, do we withdraw or isolate ourselves. We have a tendency to bottle up things. Don’t have the freedom to talk about them. We may feel shame. Our pride takes a hit. We lose our self-esteem. We think we are the only ones that are having these experiences. We become captive in our own worlds, unable to see what is beyond the pain we are feeling.
Just recently I heard a speaker state that we are the loneliest society in history. We have the ability to connect in so many ways,but are we really connecting?
Connection is a core human need. It is having shared experience, relatable feelings and similar ideas. The stress prevalent in agriculture creates a damaged ability to connect with others because we isolate ourselves and try to hide. Authenticity is required for connection and social media increases our ability to construct a façade of our lives which often is not reality.
If we build on relationships, when we share with each other, when we talk, we gain the freedom we so desperately strive for. We can think outside the box. We discover a world we knew could exist but couldn’t see because of the box we had put ourselves into. We find new direction, new identity, and a new purpose. Make it a good one.
“Never forget where you’ve been. Never lose sight of where you’re going. And never take for granted the people who travel the journey with you.” Susan Gale