Where is the love?

marlon brando & eva marie saint - on the waterfront 1954

In “On the Waterfront”, Eve Marie Saint’s character, Edie, is on a date with Marlon Brandon’s character Terry, and as they sit and talk and get to know a little about each other, she enquires about his situation in life.  He’s a tough, street-hardened fighter, raised in a boys’ home after his father got bumped off.  It’s clear he’s not had much in the way of caring in his life.  She shows a lot of interest in him and his situation.  At one point in their conversation, he asks, “What do you really, care, am I right?”, the “am I right?” seemingly indicating that his entire worldview is constructed around “every man for himself”, characterised by isolation and fear.  Indeed, later in their conversation he says that his philosophy of life is to “do it to him before he does it to you” and suggests that to have any “spark of sentiment, romance or human kindness” is something that would get a person in trouble.  In other words, he can’t comprehend that Edie’s caring might be genuine.  He goes about life as if nobody could really gives a toss about anyone.  It just doesn’t compute that someone would really care about him, or anyone else for that matter.  Not only does he struggle to comprehend her caring, he dismisses it.  A self-perpetuating cycle, it seems to me.  Not a chink of light in there.

She doesn’t give up, though.  She replies,  “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?” to which he responds, “Boy, what a fruitcake you are.”  She continues, “I mean, isn’t everybody a part of everybody else?”

Therein seems to lie the complete antithesis of Terry’s worldview.  The Eisenstein quote I used in my previous post seems apt.  “We are all fundamentally unseparated from each other, from all beings and from the universe.”  One corollary of this for me is that we owe it to each other AND ourselves to bring some more caring into the world.  If we start with our own individual worlds, it seems to me that this is a pretty good start.

Some further thoughts around sociometry have been going through me since writing that last post.  They were amplified during a chat on Twitter between Luis Suarez, Rotana Ty, Paul Simbeck-Hampson and myself.  Much of it revolved around humility, vulnerability, humane-ness and authenticity.

“And you really believe that drool?”

I’m with Edie when she says, “Yes, I do.”

When she goes on to accuse him of having not a “spark of sentiment or romance or human kindness in (his) whole body,” he says, “What good does it do you but get you in trouble?”

Call me a fruitcake, but I’d rather have a go at encountering people in all their weirdness and make an attempt to offer some kindness or meet someone’s heart-needs, than for all of us to remain bricked up behind a self-made wall.  I’m not a hardened street fighter like Terry, and I can understand why he would see the world the way he does, but I still find it hard to see how a bit of appreciation or kindness or caring would be a bad thing.  It takes me aback slightly when, for example, I’m blithely dismissed for thanking someone for sharing one of my blog posts on social media.  My internal response to a comment like, “It was merely something I thought worthy of passing on,” was “We are not Borg or Vulcans.”  Perhaps it WAS worth sharing, that’s another matter.  That notwithstanding, I felt a little stung when my appreciation for what I experienced as kind support was dismissed so instantly.  How much do we really enact caring about others in Socialmedia-land?  If I say, “Thanks, very kind”, I mean it.  It is not all about “efficiency”, “logic” or “relevance”.  Surely it’s also about humans connecting with humans in a human way.  A little human kindness, in a world where loneliness and separation is becoming the “new normal”, goes a very very long way.  I know many would agree but some of these same folks would also rebuff my expression of gratitude.

What actually is wrong with a little more human kindness?  I tire of that casual interpersonal violence that goes on all around us: in our communities, in our workplaces and in the online world.  It’s why I focus my efforts on assisting people to improve their sociometry with each other.

“You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.”

I suppose Terry’s philosophy of life works for some, and I suppose in a world that I’ve heard someone describe as brutal, it makes sense.  Best defence being a good offence, sort of thing.  Robert Reich, in his article “In Our Horrifying Future Very Few People will Have Work or Make Money”, suggests that as the world becomes more “elecronified” and “algorithm-ed”, a lot of what humans do will be replaced with something done by some sort of machine, with fewer and fewer people doing paid-for work or capitalising on investments, and that “the rest of us will be left providing the only things technology can’t provide – person-to-person attention, human touch, and care.”  Sometimes it seems that in our rush to avoid being one of the “left behind”, we immerse ourselves in social media and the internet but we leave behind something intrinsic to who we are.  We can move into the future and we can also be the most human of ourselves online.  If nothing else, it might just be that little something that identifies us as more than an intelligent and efficient social media bot.  Why don’t we enact more of that person-to-person attention and caring online?  Let’s not play the “you go first” game, waiting for someone else to show us kindness before we act.  When we know that communicating through online social networks can often be misconstrued because of the lack of face-to-face nuance that we get in real life, let’s go that extra mile to eliminate brusque-ness.  When someone puts their work out there, let’s be more considered than an “I don’t agree” or “Your argument is flawed”.  We can disagree and challenge while still being mindful that someone has invested themselves (yes, and their SELF) in their work.

As Susan Pinker observes, “Our survival hinges on social interaction……and our electronic devices can give us the illusion of intimacy without the hormonal rush of the real deal.”  My view is that social interaction, whether face-to-face or virtually, is not purely a transactional exchange of pleasantries or functional statements.  It carries the expression of our humanity.  It touches the core of us and lets us know that we hear and we are heard, we see and we are seen, we value and we are valued.  It is the kind of interaction that can only be approximated virtually.  I’m not one to say we need to turn the clock back and leave our iLives, for they can augment our real lives, but since we are, indeed, living our social networks more online, let’s do our best to build each other up and be as convivial as we can.  Just because we only have 140 characters, let’s not leave out the love.


11 thoughts on “Where is the love?

    1. Thanks for adding that in Ted. What goes on in our inner world is a thick lens through which we see the outer world, I know this from experiencing depression at times. That one deserves another article in itself, I reckon 🙂

      ..and yes, I’m with you re: Bob’s work. His mantra of “attending to people’s needs” chimes very strongly with me.

      Best wishes, John

  1. Hello John,

    What can I say except “Thank you for creating this and sharing it with us!”

    I’d like to share something personal with you. Do you know what some of the folks closest to me ‘criticise’ me for? For putting others (including them) before myself. I get told something like “Isn’t it time that you put yourself first, or gave more value/attention to your needs?” Do you know what happens when my birthday comes around? Difficulty. Why? Because I ask folks NOT to buy me anything. Instead, I ask them to contribute to Kiva what they are willing to spend on me for my birthday. Guess how folks take that? They tell me off. Some just don’t get my anything for my birthday, others ignore my wishes. At least that used to be the case. Over the years I have persisted and this year folks gave me money and I put that money into Kiva.

    It occurs to me that Heidegger was spot on when he said that we live in the technological age. What did he mean by that? That we live in an age where life is all about everything (including human beings) treated as a resource which had to be deployed, utilised with efficiency. And that we, the human beings, have come to see ourselves as resources or brands. But not human beings! What he was pointing out was a radical transformation of our understanding of what it is to be a human being. What value does a human being have today if s/h is of no economic use? None. Just turn your attention to the 1500+ migrants dead at sea. Why? Because the folks in the EU do not see them as fellow human beings. Nor do the see them as valuable economic resources. They seem them as economic liabilities. Now compare that to the way that the UK actively searched for and received immigrants after WWII – then the immigrants were essential economic resource: labour needed to rebuild Britain.

    We have conspired to co-create a loveless society. And for good reason. In a loveless society we can generate competition – in the labor market competition drives down wages, and increases profits of the elite/powerful. In a loveless society folks consume lots of stuff to compensate for that which comes free in a loving society: conversation, community, sharing, nurturing, touch, entertainment…. Again this is good because it drives sales, and profits – for the elite/powerful.

    I say that to show up and travel in this world (which you/i/we constitute) from a place of ‘love and loving’ (genuine human kindness) is a radical act. A revolutionary act. It also leaves the person who chooses to show up this way vulnerable. By so doing he has raised himself from being fallen into the ‘one’. The folks who constitute that do not take that lightly. The system, the ‘one’, fights back. The Matrix (movie) touches on this.

    Here I am reminded about something Che Guevara said when asked about the key characteristic of a revolutionary. His reply was that a revolutionary has to love! He saw a revolutionary as a social reformer and that social reform was driven from his compassion/love for his fellow wo/man and his/her circumstances, oppression, and suffering.

    So I say, that if you/i wish for love and loving to course through this life then you/i need to continually put this into the world – though our being and doing. And we do this because this is the game we have chosen to play. Not because we expect anything from others.

    At your service | with my love

    1. Maz thank you very much for adding in your very thoughtful and fulsome comments. I get what you mean when you talk about a loveless society. I think in recent years I’ve noticed how tiring that is for me and have tried to turn to creating a more loving society around me, not always an easy task of course. I think it’s about being the change I want to create, that old adage. For a long long time I’ve seen what I do as a political act. Dr JL Moreno said, “A truly therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of mankind,” which is something I took to heart many years ago when I embarked on my psychodrama/sociodrama path. The planet is in need of sociatry, healing of the whole. While I don’t earn my crust doing therapy any longer, I think it’s important that we all of us see what we do as leading towards some kind of healing or reparative effect. This starts with turning away from our phones and talking with our loved ones, having that friendly conversation with someone that makes you both smile, offering to help someone without any expectation of reciprocation, sharing a comment with someone that builds them up…whatever seems do-able. It’s a start and a damn sight better than doing nothing. Once again, thank you. Love and peace, John

  2. If you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t know what you are missing regarding what you don’t know…whether it’s good to know or not!

    For those who ‘do know’ (how to reach out; how to ‘feel’; what it feels like not to ‘know’; the reward of being vulnerable) theirs is not an obligation to reach out to others…it is a choice; a choice that makes a huge difference to those who need the connection and unless you haven’t experienced what it is like NOT having the connection, you will never know the positive impact you can have. Reach out…

    1. How delightful Norman, thank you for adding this in. Excellent point about it being a choice. A ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ under duress is not the thing, huh? A dry act of duty is not what we need from each other, but something that helps us to feel that little bit less isolated or separated from the human race. …and thank you for reaching in. Hope all is well in your world. Warmly, John

  3. John,

    Wonderful post. Allow me first to take a step back into my unrelenting idealism (I thought “they said” that age would blunt it?) and naivete and ask, so what’s the alternative to love? to kindness? to empathy? to gratitude?
    Perhaps I am confused about one part of this discussion?

    Typically, several things can harden our hearts – some version of Terry’s childhood and erosion from cultures over time. Mostly, we don’t start out as cynics. Self-protection is created from the self-made bricked up wall you refer to. Absolute alignment with the intellect makes for an effective sealant for that wall.

    All of this flies into the face of what we now know from social neuroscience. There’s no doubt – we are not only social creatures – we have a neurobiology built on it. The mind is amazing at constructing forms of social cues even when no one is present.

    As for social media, I believe that people who are authentically involved – beyond self-promotional and obligatory courtesies (which are based on self-promotion) find each other. Some of it is more intellectually driven, some more driven by heart space – the ideal combination being the two. I really have less and less interest in anything but…

    Here’s a quote I saw earlier and it reminded me of this article. It’s from the Dalai Lama –

    “Because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence.”

    And that’s it. Everything else is part of the wall.


    1. Dear Louise, as you know I love your unrelenting idealism and naivete. What I read in your work is that blend of the intellect and heart that you speak of too. I think that we can’t emphasise enough how important love and caring are to our survival, both as individuals and as a species. I’m with you when you say that cynicism is not what we start with in life and we need to keep re-accessing that early drive for connection and inter-being that Eisenstein writes of. Thank you once again for adding in and keeping the connection. Warmly, John

  4. This world is a world where the small sense of self is enacted. Each self is pursuing material self-interest while seeing itself as independent of all other selves: Love does not lead to material benefit except by chance alone. Love is not for this world!

    A world wherein people truly care (as your essay so creatively describes) is another world, not this one—oil and water don’t mix. Acts of kindness & caring mustn’t be rare and random, like lightening strikes. Such an alternative world would emerge from the enactment of a different worldview and a different value system. As you suggest it is the manifestation of a larger and greater sense of Self.

    1. I like your comment, “Love is not for this world.” It pains me to say I tend to agree, in the sense that we have crafted a world in which love has little place. I think the work is twofold: to craft a new world in which love is a central organising principle, and while still in this world, to remember ourselves and others and bring what love we can into it in order to sustain ourselves. Thank you very much for your thoughtful addition to this conversation. Warmly, John.

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