Force Field From Openness
A little over a year ago, I posted a video on my Facebook page of the Dalai Lama talking about the personal responsibility we have of ourselves to others. He is speaking the truth! Check out the video below:
The Dalai Lama begins talking about how we are social animals who are interdependent. We must take care of others’ well-being and we must not think only about ourselves. If we take care of each other, then we can all be friends. It’s that simple, but not necessarily easy.
He has a great quote about halfway through the video. He says, “If the rest of human beings are happy, peaceful, I get the maximum benefit. If the rest of the world gets troubled, how can I escape from that?” He preaches an openness and calls us to reach out to others as fellow friends. He states that the basis of genuine friendship is trust and that trust depends on openness. The Dalai Lama concludes by saying, “The ultimate source of mental health is a warm heartedness.”
With mental health issues on the rise and tragedies happening left and right, this message is of the utmost importance. Why is it that we retreat to our devices more often than our fellow human beings? I think this is because we have agreed on this social norm as a culture. If we are standing next to a stranger waiting for the bus, we rarely engage in conversation. More often than not, out comes the smartphone to fill the void of what could be an open opportunity.
Muscles atrophy if we do not continuously exercise them to make them stronger. They grow weak and gradually wither away if we don’t actively work them. This is not just the case with physical exercise, but with mental exercise as well. Conversational, emotional, and social intelligence is just as important, if not more important, than critical thinking and analysis. Despite this, when I am out and about, I see a ton of people, but not many of them interacting with one another.
Now this isn’t always the case. Usually if we have a shared experience with a group of people, whether it be a class, a job, or a sports team, we are naturally going to develop and nurture these relationships. It’s those initial interactions that are crucial.
I attended a three-day acting master class with New York director Anne Bogart a few months ago. The class was a pretty decent size and when I first walked into the room I saw everyone stretching, getting ready for the work we were about to dive into. Everyone looked very concentrated, very intense. Stretching is important and the work we were doing was very serious and beneficial to our designated careers, but the environment proved to be somewhat intimidating. Though I smirked at the intensity, I joined the crowd and began stretching. Just as the first day of class was about to begin, Anne came in the door and shouted “Why isn’t anyone talking to each other?!” We then proceeded to introduce ourselves before class began.
On the last day, an outing was planned to grab drinks at a pub down the street. At this point, my fellow classmates and I did a lot of work together and fell into conversation much more naturally and comfortably. Eventually, I came to discover that many of my classmates felt the same way I did when walking into the beginning of that first class! “Oooo…everyone is stretching and looks so serious. I suppose I should do the same!” We had a good chuckle about it. Those moments in life are so funny.
We see the same sort of thing when someone takes out a smartphone. Someone else will, then a third, then a fourth. It’s almost as if it’s a sacred time. “Whence the clock striketh thirteen after the half of two, you shall taketh out thine devices!” It’s human nature to be hesitant towards strangers. This was necessary back in the caveman days when you weren’t sure if the person approaching was a savage enemy or a kind passerby. Times have changed, but that instinct is still there. It’s good to occasionally take that leap and strike up a conversation. The only problem is that now we have the forcefield around us: the smartphone. This makes it that much more appealing to stay within our safety net.
As we stay in this safety net, however, it becomes more and more difficult to reach out to each other as friends. It becomes more difficult to embrace openness and trust with our fellow human beings. It becomes difficult to build genuine friendships, as the Dalai Lama said. We must consider this deeply and realize that the more we engage with our devices, the less we engage with our outside world and with people who can potentially change the course of our lives.