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  • Writer's pictureDora

Success through connection, healing the fabric of our society

This audiobook is so good that I listened to it twice back-to-back, then got the book version and reread it while underlining.

By far, it is one of the most emotionally stirring, vulnerable, and breathtakingly beautiful writings I have had the privilege of reading. It's a book that not only engages your mind but also touches your heart, making you feel deeply connected to the societal issues it addresses.

If I could have one magic boon, it would be so everyone reads this book. Our society needs it. Individual rights and protecting individual rights are essential steps toward humanizing our society, but there is a difference between a society that is just and equal and a society that is so individualistic that we can no longer find connection and common good.  The overemphasis on the individual is now killing us. Yes, it is killing us; suicide rates, loneliness, and illness due to depression are all up, and while we suffer, we keep celebrating a rampant individualism of “You do you of Instagram,” to quote Brooks, which has no hope for deep human interconnectedness. We increasingly stay in the shallows of happiness and entertainment, a feel-good culture based on emotional avoidance.

I felt this myself. I hoped that having one common threat, COVID-19, would have united us in a common cause and bring communities closer, but what ended up happening was a deeper entrenchment of tribalism and individualism. As I learned from David Brooks, Tribalism is uniting around a common enemy; community is rallying around a common good or cause. That is a big difference; tribes create negative energy centered around righteousness and hate. Tribes are not around when a tribal member has a fall. We show up for community, but not for a tribe. One does not need to look far to see tribal attitudes in our culture, from politics to private life.

Rampant individualism is in everything we celebrate nowadays, creating more social isolation. 

The difficult part is that in moderation and with the right use, these things can be positive, but we no longer do anything in balance because we focus too much on the self and we have removed our daily lives from "old-fashioned virtues" such as humility, temperance, patience, and selflessness. So, meritocracy becomes a soulless race for status and money. Healthy boundaries went from keeping different relationships in proper order by clear, honest communication to “I feel uncomfortable; thus, I will push away, blame, and isolate.” 

We cannot resolve messy interactions, so workplaces institute absolute terms (heck, it is easier for the legal department), thus creating a space devoid of human interactions. So, what was once a source of our social group is now a space devoid of social bonds. Yes, I am aware of the flip side of the argument that mingling, if done without moral backbone, can lead to trouble and abuse of power. But equally so, fearing human interactions and simply showing up to do work is also harmful to our psychology; it also hurts the workplace because it cannot create loyalty and team. As a result, workers jump around chasing just a little better paycheck and benefits because nothing would tie a person to a place. Thus, the empty meritocracy wheel keeps churning, and at this point, the corporation calls me up to give a "Wellness and Stress Reduction Seminar," honestly, all I can do is give a little relief.

Our whole culture is the problem.  As Brooks explained, and I have been teaching for decades, meaningful relationships are a little messy. If you want any depth in community and relationships, you must lean into a bit of messiness. However, messiness cannot happen if we are convinced that discomfort and emotion outside of happiness are bad. The lack of communication creates the problem, but we are afraid to communicate when emotions are mixed. So, we are left with superficial relationships without meaningful, deep conversations. 

Brooks provides many more examples, much better than I do, of how our culture creates isolation. Here is one more example from my life.

I started experiencing how technology further pushes us apart with the advancement of our smartphones. I am not even talking about social media, but about how we wish not to interrupt one another anymore. I grew up in Eastern Europe when not everyone had phones, and I am not talking about cell phones since they have not been invented yet; I am talking about landlines. So, what do you do when you want to see your friend without a phone? You show up. That’s it, no preparations, no questions, just, “Hi, I was in the neighborhood, and I thought I'd swing by to say hello.” My friend could have been in the middle of something; they usually were. They were wearing bunny slippers and maybe had not even washed yet, but it NEVER mattered. We dropped what we did and invited our friend in for a quick coffee and conversation. Maybe it was only 15-30 minutes, but it happened often. It was a raw, authentic, and honest interaction that allowed our friends to see our real selves without pretense or makeup. Nowadays, we feel that even a phone call is too intrusive; we must make an appointment to avoid invading each other’s time because we are so busy... Thus, social interactions are rare and staged, where we put our best face on and have fun, but this sort of interaction is missing soul and meaning, and one cannot depend on this kind of friendship in tough times.

This is just one of many examples of how our society is losing its fabric of unity and how our days are becoming increasingly isolated. Underlying moral codes, “moral ecologies,” as Brooks calls them, are the fabric of society; the moral code of a community creates the sea in which we must breathe.  I know now I must sound like an old-fashioned tight-a.., but don’t listen to me; my words do not do it justice.. Please read this book; David Brooks lays out today’s dilemmas while opening up a page to his innermost experiences on religion, conversion, inner life, and joy.

At the end of the book, I felt exactly what Brooks wrote: a sense of moral joy, elevation, faith, and inspiration. The inspiration was so great that I decided to take small but definitive steps towards opening a nonprofit. More than that, I feel urged to do my part to change our culture of isolation and individualism and create space for meaningful connection. I have known for a long time that this cannot be done by giving a presentation on mindfulness or teaching exercise and entertainment-based yoga to "get a break from life." I mindfully ran my businesses and my teaching based on connection and emotional awareness, which at times clashed with our hyper-individualistic and emotionally avoidant culture. I have felt a sense of frustration and helplessness with my industry for a long time. Yoga is not about "having fun and a break from life's worries." It is the opposite; it is a space where you lean into discomfort and learn to manage emotions through inquiry into the asana. Thank you, David Brooks, for explaining my feelings and assuring me that I am on the right path. And now, it is time to step it up a notch and bring healing to a segment of our community who have no financial access to such luxuries but need it just the same. How? I am not sure yet, but it all starts with awareness and intention.

As I gaze toward the 50-year mark in my life, I can say, along with David Brooks, that I am ready for that second mountain. I want a meaningful, moral, faith-guided life—a messy one full of adversity and joy. Will you join me?

Read the book and want to join our Book Club? Join us July 26th for more information click here


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