Tag Archives: interconnectedness


You know what’s weird? Waking up on a Monday morning with something on your mind, and logging into Facebook to say ‘hello’ to the world, and seeing a post from a person you follow which is about exactly the thing you were thinking about.

That's mad, Ted! Image: quotefully.com

That’s mad, Ted!
Image: quotefully.com

it’s not like this person and I know one another (she’s a celebrity) or that we’re even in the same cultural milieu or general surroundings (we’re, unfortunately, not); it’s just one of those things. In this world of ours, one that’s all about connectivity and ‘sharing’ (a vilely abused word, these days), but wherein the actual human connection can, unfortunately, be easily lost, it’s startling to be reminded that, sometimes, other people’s minds are in exactly the same place yours is in.

And, isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Sadly, the place my mind was in this morning wasn’t exactly a happy place – this article, to which said celebrity provided a link on Facebook and about which she waxed lyrical on her personal page – will tell you all you need to know about my thought processes. I’m thinking about this topic – that of the reality of bereavement, mourning and grief in a world wherein social media is king – mainly because, in the last few years, several of my Facebook and (God love me) Myspace contacts have passed away, but their online presences remain. If a person is lost suddenly, can those left behind (or, should they) find a way to mark their social media outlets with the message that their creator has died? We are the first generation who is faced with the sorrow of seeing a deceased loved one’s name pop up in our newsfeeds every year on their birthday, reminding us to send a card or exhorting us to write a greeting on their Wall, or whatever it is. We are the first generation living with a phenomenon like ‘funeral selfies‘ – the very idea of it makes something break, deep down inside me – and it’s a reminder, once again, that the internet is such a powerful thing. It’s powerful enough to change the way we think, feel, and act. It will be the thing which reshapes human nature, in my opinion.

Or, perhaps, it will be the thing which ushers forth the narcissism that has always been a part of human nature, but which has never before had such an opportunity to become central to how we think about ourselves. I’m not sure which I find more strange – the idea that the internet is making us more self-obsessed, or simply giving us an outlet for the self-obsession that’s already at the heart of our existence.

John William Waterhouse, 'Echo and Narcissus', 1903 Image: en.wikipedia.org

John William Waterhouse, ‘Echo and Narcissus’, 1903
Image: en.wikipedia.org

I do realise that I’m writing a blog, here, and that I’m making use of the internet to put forth my ideas and my thoughts and it’s all about me, me, me… And perhaps that’s the saddest part of the whole thing. The culture in which we live is, like all cultures, all-encompassing. You’re part of it, for good or ill, and making the best of it is all you can do. It does occur to me sometimes that this blog will, probably, outlast me; if I were to die unexpectedly, this blog would remain. Nobody would be able to log in and disable it. It would be like an abandoned, creaking, obsolete space station, slowly pinwheeling its lonely way across the vastness of eternity, forever (or, until it hits a meteorite or burns up in an atmosphere or, you know. Whatever.)

That freaks me out a bit.

It also makes me want to write the best blog I’m capable of – if it’s going to be my memorial, then let’s make it sparkle, goshdarnit!

Actually, no. The ‘freaking out’ thing outweighs everything else.

I’m pretty sure that there’s an element of this self-memorialisation in all art, too. It’s not that we feel we’re such incandescent geniuses that the world needs our art to steer it into the future, but it’s more about feeling like we’ve made a difference, that something we’ve written or made or painted or sung has added to the pot of human culture. Even if nobody remembers our name, our art will live on after we do. It’s getting harder and harder for each individual note to be spotted in the clamouring mish-mash that is our humanity, but that makes the urge to contribute even more pressing; the more difficult it is to be heard, the louder we shout. But what if all that’s being created and contributed is ‘art’ which is ever more inward-looking, all about the self, focused entirely on an individual and their view of the world? We’ll have millions of tiny vortexes, all tightly bound to their own whorling hearts, none of them looking out and seeing what’s there, seeing how we can help, how we can – each of us – make the world a little clearer and easier to bear for everyone.

All art is about the self, but – I feel – it has traditionally spoken to the commonality of shared humanness, too. Nowadays, most of the creative content I see, particularly online, has a larger focus on the ‘self’ of its creator and less focus on the connectedness of its creator to their fellows. Social media allows us to make ourselves into art installations. But what’s the point of creating millions of beautiful, individual pieces of art – which are, in so many ways, our lives – if none of them are truly in conversation with anything else?

‘Sharing’ is not the same as ‘communing’; putting forth our art, our words, our social media posts, our blogs, our music is all rendered a bit pointless if we don’t listen to the contributions of others, and recognise their validity.

And yet, there are days you wake up and someone on the far side of the world is thinking exactly the same thing as you, and they’ve expressed it publicly, and you feel a connection. And – if you’re clever – you use that connection to drive forth your own art, and your own humanness, and you realise that you’re living in an age of miracles, and that all will be well.

Image: ivillage.com

Image: ivillage.com

We Are One

First things first. It’s COLD!

I haven’t been having too good a time of it this Monday morning – I’ve been awake since the early hours. I wasn’t feeling too well and I just wasn’t able to sleep. Luckily, however, I’m feeling better now. If I could just sort out the fact that my workspace is currently minus two degrees Celsius, I’d be good to start the day.

I look a bit like this:

I know how you feel, Han...Image: collider.com

I know how you feel, Han…
Image: collider.com

I have a feeling I’ll be working on pen and paper today, muffled up in a warm corner somewhere. Days like this, I wish I was a cat. No matter what the weather, they have a knack of finding the best and warmest places to take a nap… I mean, work.

One of the things that’s on my mind this morning is the inter-connectedness between people and the importance of relationships. This is probably because of the fact that among the things I did this weekend was watch a movie – well, more like a documentary – which I’d been wanting to see for a long time. It’s called ‘Dreams of a Life.’ (If you haven’t seen this film, and you’d like to watch it, perhaps this post might give away a little too much about it. Just a warning!)

This is it:

dreams of a life

It tells the (at times, very sad) story of a woman named Joyce Vincent, who passed away in December 2003. Tragically, though, her body was not discovered until 2006. She was still in her home, her television set was still turned on, and she was surrounded by a pile of Christmas presents which she’d been wrapping at the time of her death. Her body was only discovered when her landlord came looking for three years’ back rent – at least, this is how it’s depicted in the film – and the scene when she is found has been in my brain ever since I saw it. This lady was not a recluse; she had friends, she had family. She was loved, but she was forgotten. The film asks ‘how can something like this happen?’

The film-makers tracked down her old friends, some of her ex-partners, and people who’d worked with her during her life. None of them had anything bad to say about her as a person, besides the fact that she wasn’t the best at cleaning the bathroom; everyone loved her, and shared their good memories of her. One of the men with whom she’d had a lengthy relationship in the 1980s (which then developed into a close friendship for the rest of her life) was interviewed throughout the film. At the end, he breaks down and says ‘I wish she’d have called me and asked me for help. I would have helped. I would have helped because I love you.’ He forgot, momentarily, that he was talking to a camera, and he addressed his lost friend directly. It was a terrible and tragic moment, and I was very moved.

Her friends seemed to think she was off doing something fabulous with her life, and they didn’t miss her for that reason. She had always been a ‘flitter’, in their terms, someone who didn’t like to be tied down to a job or a particular way of life. But, somehow, she managed to stay in contact with certain people down through the years, albeit sporadically. She was (in their words) a beautiful, talented, popular and bubbly woman, who had never lacked for company or material comfort. At least, as far as they knew. One of the most striking aspects of the film was the fact that everyone had slightly different impressions of who she was as a person – they were united in their opinions of her outward existence, in other words her beauty and stylish way of dressing – but some of their opinions about who she was in terms of her personality and her inner life were flatly contradictory. Some friends said she seemed to have no direction or ambition, and others that she was a very driven and ambitious person, for instance. Most of them were making guesses as to what she may or may not have been thinking or feeling at certain points in their friendship with her.

The film made me wonder about several things, including the idea of living your life without letting people into it. I’m wondering why people see themselves as a burden on others when, sometimes, their friends would welcome a little more contact or a little more inclusion in their life. Why is it that most people’s reaction, when approached by a friend seeking help, is to give that help without question – but they may not feel they themselves are worthy of being helped in a similar way? I began to think about my friends and how worried I’d be if I didn’t hear from them for weeks or months at a time; then, they don’t live the sort of carefree life that Joyce did. They don’t regularly disappear or put themselves out of contact with everyone. So, if one of them vanished it would seem strange and out of character, and it would flag as worrying behaviour. But, still. Knowing that a person can simply vanish, and be missed by nobody, in 21st-century London, is frightening.

We like to think that we matter, and that we’re important. And – of course – we do matter, and we are important. But Joyce Vincent’s story happened, and I’m sure it’s happening every day all over the world. Perhaps it happens because people don’t believe that anyone could love them, or that anyone could care whether they live or die. I hope, perhaps in my naive way, that it’s rare to find a person about whom nobody else cares at all. Everyone has someone who loves them, and who would miss them if they died. At least, they should have. The thought that a person – a life – who had been so important to so many people could be so easily lifted out of the world made me feel sad for humanity. If one of us is lost without anyone noticing, it lessens the whole.

Every one of us has value – including you. Every one of us brings something unique to the world. I hope, if I were to suddenly disappear, that I would be missed and mourned and remembered with love.

If we all lived our lives like we mattered, and like everyone else mattered in exactly the same way, wouldn’t it be a better world?