The secret of life is so simple that most of us disregard it because we fear it will make us look naive. The consequences of the secret are so complex that they get denied and derided. Businesses operate like it’s not true. Politicians talk and vote in an upside down universe where the secret is its opposite. Your prejudices make you do a 180.
What is the secret of life? Dignified, human connection. I’m not talking about membership in cliques, an active social life or a big family. I’m talking about respectful, honest relationships with people who validate you. I suspect you know the difference.
In this article, the writer discovers that the cause of enduring addiction is the loss of meaningful connection to community, and that the cure is the reintroduction of real community in people’s lives. Organizational psychologists know that before you can effectively lead people, you first have to connect with them. We also know that solitary confinement is one of the cruelest forms of torture and a one way ticket to persistent mental illness.
Animals are social creatures in need of both stimulation and comfort. Humans are capable of conducting a parade of horrible things, but nothing we do is worse than disregarding the impact of physical and emotional loneliness.
Realizing the secret of life also reveals the surest solutions to some of our most intractable problems. Just think about how many of our society’s greatest issues could be resolved simply through the restoration of human dignity and equality for everyone. Getting past the all-too-common mindset of “Us vs. Them,” and realizing that everyone, no matter their situation, is worthy of dignity and respect is the first, and most difficult, step. The next step is to act on that realization and make an attempt to come up with tangible solutions. Far too many people are kept on the outside because of myriad factors – from race to socio-economic status to sexual orientation – and the isolation and dehumanization that occur as a result, breed poverty, violence, depression and countless other issues that have plagued humanity for millennia. Reconnecting marginalized groups with strong, vibrant communities, rather than excluding them, can mean the difference between freedom and prison, success and poverty, life and death.
So, now that we’ve discovered this secret, the real question is, what are we going to do with it? Are we going to use this newfound knowledge to make the world a better place by forming inclusive communities that embody the true spirit of humanity, or are we simply going to ignore it in favor of continued isolation and contempt for the “other”? The decision seems pretty clear to me.