At the beginning of April I set the intention to have a face-to-face interaction with each of my 24 neighbors. But as April turned into May I still hadn’t taken action on my challenge. Quite simply, I was scared. Not because I suspected by neighbors were incinerating bodies in the basement, but because I was afraid of violating the unspoken but very real norm of privacy, and the unmentioned, but very palpable code of silence that governed our community. In the face of engaging in a simple, but profoundly countercultural act, I completely froze.
There’s a certain cool control to a person who never seems to need anything from anyone. We often think we admire this quality in others, but find ourselves hurt and frustrated when it forces us into the uncomfortable position of always being the one on the receiving end of help.
I’ve begun to think of this project as slowly digging my way out of the prison or our hyper-individualistic culture. And if I can tunnel all the way out, and convince enough people to come with me, it could be the greatest jail break of all time.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
The minute we flag our busyness in a social interaction, we send a signal to the person we’re talking with that we don’t have much time to be with them—that we have important things to do and places to be, and that we’d better make it quick. This subtle cue cuts off conversation, isolates us from others, and insulates us from connection.
As I’ve set out to enact my 2019 resolution to become “the sort of person who connects meaningfully every day” I’ve decided to follow the advice of the habit scientists.
Together we can chart a path toward a relationalist revolution, which may go further than anything else we’ve tried for solving our nation’s most pressing problems.