We all have this uncanny knack of getting stuck with some phrases and pondering over them.One such phrase was said by a late comedian, George Carlin. It has stuck with me since as long as I can remember.
“I love, love individuals. I hate groups of people.”
Of course it’s also true that if there are a million minds who read this, there can, well, be two million interpretations of this statement. We can all apply our own brand of lens. But to me, this phrase makes perfect sense.
Many groups of people do many things. Good things. Bad things. Great things. But a common thread runs through it. And that is the thread of a common ideology. But, just like most things in life, perfection is far fetched.
Still something irks me here. Maybe it’s their way of conduct, or sheer conviction, they sure carry some sort of adhesive that keeps them binding.
I have always been fascinated with the idea of love. Digressing from romantic love, I’d like to emphasize the idea of loving all, but, and here is the key word, individually. The more people I meet, the more the thought inside me substantiates, and I almost believe that there isn’t anyone out there that I won’t be able to find a thing or two that’d be run common between us, if we sat and had a discussion for an hour or two.
That intrigues me and I can’t help but wonder what is it about individual relationships that makes them successful.
As far as my utterly limited understanding goes, having a bond with someone is akin not just to share a common wavelength with them, but an invisible stream of consciousness, without any imaginary walls between to thump the connection.
This logic extends to groups as well. It is because of this ‘invisible consciousness’ that contains what a group values, their modus operandi and other important things. So much so that it takes the form of a culture. Families have a culture, religions have a culture, nations have a culture. It’s the basic protocol we want to know when we know nothing. It protects us. It breaks us. It divides us as well.
Actually, the raison d’etre of most cultures is distinction from other cultures. Then comes dividing people in the name of those distinctions which often doesn't end in the most pleasant ways. The world is full of such examples.
What strikes me, however, is the realization that individual relationships have a culture as well. And our job is to nurture that.
When I’m trying to make friends with someone outside a group setting, there’s a tacit understanding between us, about unspoken rules, in real time. One shared experience at a time. One moment at a time.
Over time it allows for an organic connection to foster between us. Appreciating the similarities, accepting the differences. Because every conversation will be defined by the contexts created in past conversations. This shared cultured is more nuanced and has more layers to it than a group.
What does it mean for happiness?
Humans have always brooded over the questions of how to live a happy and fulfilling life. In my opinion, it is only about the connections we make. The number and quality of it.
In other words, our happiness lies not with us, but with other people. It shapes us into who we are.And over time I have realized that things can change with right approach towards life and proper utilization of time. To make this shared culture more stronger with the ones we want to.
A few days ago someone asked me ‘When do we get bored of people?” To which I replied that there simply isn’t enough stimulus for some people in the world. I also threw some jargon words like ‘thrill seeking’ and ‘adrenaline junkies’ for the effect. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was talking then. But now it seems glaring to me.
As beautiful as it is to meet new people and strike conversations and making a connection, the truth however, is alarmingly different from this. The novelty of a new relationship lessens in comparison to something that has stood the test of time. And before you know it, pales into insignificance.
I think this effect is because of the layers attached to it. There are degrees to a shared culture as well.
I’ve tried to unfold these layers.
First there is a basic understanding, the point where everything is formal, becomes semi-formal and gradually things become casual with a person. This is the first phase where we realize that the relationship has potential.
The second stage is when you start making digs at each other, sharing secrets, and vulnerabilities. Even at this point it’s hard to be sure whether it’s blossomed into something that’s, say, shatter proof. A sense of ‘depth’ is lacking until you’ve actually spent some simple, ordinary time with someone.
The kind of depth that when you’re both sitting next to each other, quietly eating, or just doing your own work, not saying anything. Because you don’t need to. The silence itself is the communication. And sometimes it says more than words can.
This tacit understanding is what the poets talk about in their peculiarly rhyming fancy poems. A strong companionship may be built on the foundation of a shared culture but it isn’t truly meaningful until what is not said becomes as important as what is said.
The point I’m trying to drive home here is that we tend to associate ‘culture’ to the vast collective consciousness surrounding us. But there are niceties to culture as well. Beyond the societal, the economic, the political, the religious. Layers more intricate, more personal.
Every relationship has a shared culture which is responsible for shaping interactions in that relationship. It allows us to connect with people who we otherwise could not.
And if that’s what fosters happiness and fulfillment in our lives, then we must try and invest in it and nurture the shared culture, and it needs to be prioritized.
Silence between two people who’ve put time into their relationship is a double edged sword. It can be either a source of shallowness or a meaningful connection. Tread carefully.