There is a link to friendship here since he also thought this process of organisation would accelerate. A new consciousness would be achieved, which he called theOmega Point’. It encapsulated his idea of human freedom – that being quite the opposite of the liberty of the Copernican view. Instead of floating freely as individuals, Teilhard imagines our freedom as being found at the point where individuality meets universality. ‘We can only find our person by uniting together,’ he wrote. That’s the simple beauty of the wheel. When we bluntly challenge ourselves to figure out what we can change and what we can’t, what to lose and what to keep, we often surprise ourselves with the bold simplicity of our answers. The wheel is equally useful one-on-one. Even if we’re alone in a dark and quiet room, intent on contemplating our future, we’re still being distracted by the competing voices mumbling and shouting inside our heads. Posing big-picture questions to ourselves crowds out the distracting voices and shuffles the niggling issues and daily nuisances that upset us to the back of the line, where they belong. Commuting, family, and golf? That was a trio I hadn’t heard before. I thought Steve was being flip (although clearly he had issues with commuting). But as we discussed it, the rigor and integrity in his answers emerged – as well as the trigger to action. Yes, Steve hated the three hours a day he spent commuting between his suburban New Jersey home and his downtown Manhattan office. John raised his bushy eyebrows, clearly concerned about how I would take such a declaration. I mean, he said, as if to clarify, the person I’m seeing as I get to know you just doesn’t match up with the one you show to the world. You know what I mean? I sat in silence, suddenly feeling small. It’s so strange, Steve.
I’ve been wanting to say this for the past couple of months. We were sitting across from one another in John’s office, exploring a friendship that was still quite new. I felt exposed. Off balance. Dizzy, even. He let off steam by drinking beer. She let off steam by snacking. If she confronted him about his beer (it made him more sloppy in his spending), he criticized her weight. Listening to Linda, I found it easy to imagine her husband retreated to selfish pursuits and let her carry the bulk of their shared burden. His behavior was deeply corrosive to their mutual trust and respect, but I found it hard to know how Linda contributed to their dynamic. Clearly her inability to confront him effectively was a huge problem. As stressed as Linda was by their finances, she was even more stressed by their inability to work together. Money is an issue within marriage, but it’s also a major variable in who marries, and for how long. Joblessness, employment insecurity, and lack of education contribute to both lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates. Wealth inequality in the United States has skyrocketed in the past forty years. It is a description of cosmic friendship. There are, of course, all sorts of reasons to be sceptical of this philosophy. The mystical element may turn you off. The total-itarian ethic of unification may do so too. However, it can perhaps serve as a heuristic model through which to interpret the meaning of web-enabled human networks.
On the one hand, there is this hope that they nurture the compassionate side of humanity, that by being more exposed to one another we plummet the depths of what we have in common. But on the other hand, Teilhard was fully aware of the evils connectivity can nurture too. As things are now going it will not be long before we run full tilt into one another,’ he continued. ‘Something will explode if we persi So once again, the internet looks like a prism through which pre-existing trends come to be seen in primary colours. It ate into how much time he could spend with his wife and three children. His passion for golf was one reason he had settled in the suburbs; that’s where the courses were. But his answers revealed a shift in priorities, and they were more closely interconnected than I had assumed. Admitting golf’s diminished importance in his life – and accepting it – meant there was no reason to stay in the suburbs. He was free to return to Manhattan, where he could actually walk to work, thus creating a shorter commute, eliminating his misery, and not only preserving but increasing his time with his family. So he sold his big house, moved his family into a place ten minutes from his office, and started showing up at home most nights in time for dinner. He still had behavioral issues at work that we needed to address, but his life’s biggest headache had vanished. Good things happen when we ask ourselves what we need to create, preserve, eliminate, and accept – a test I suspect few of us ever self-administer. Discovering what really matters is a gift, not a burden. He thinks I’m a fake? Could he really say those kinds of things to me? Did he know me well enough? I learned later, as this same feeling of extreme vulnerability repeated itself over and over again in my friendship with John, that this discomfort signaled something important. Here’s the lesson that John’s truth telling finally led me to understand: if being seen in some new depth disorganizes your mind temporarily, makes you feel crazy or struck dumb, well, then you know you’ve hit important new psychological pay dirt.
What are the deepest truths about you that these friends withhold from you–withhold perhaps because they’re too personal, or too frightening, to say out loud? You must not be told, they think. It would hurt you. It would destroy you. Nonetheless, wouldn’t you like to know what they see? Financial strain–not to mention graveyard shifts, multiple jobs, and lack of benefits–is known to weaken the stability and quality of marriages. It results in less family and spousal time, less flexibility, and more emotional stress, all powerful drains on relationships. Conversely, the people who are most likely to marry and stay married are those who have the most to gain, and the gains are largest for those who can tie their fate to another person with education, health, and opportunities. Today, the most educated Americans marry more and divorce less than the moderately and least educated groups. Their advantages both result from, and reinforce, what used to be called middle-class values: hard work, delayed gratification, and educational pursuit. Statistics show that the white-picket-fence dream of marriage is increasingly out of reach for the majority of the population. Yet Americans from across different wealth, ethnic, and age categories continue to highly value marriage as an institution. They regard it as extremely important and hope to enter into it (about 90 percent of Americans marry at least once). They aspire to invest in their marriages, even if their circumstances make it difficult to do so. Among the poor, where marriage rates are lowest, maintaining flexibility in partner arrangements is one way to avoid the very real chance of being further disadvantaged by a nonearning, dependent spouse, or to improve one’s economic position through association with a solvent spouse. And so, when great claims are made for the internet, be they for good or ill, it is always worth asking whether the real issue at stake is really not novelty but an intensification of human experience. Consider this case. There are today occasions on which an individual meets a stranger who is really no stranger at all. This is because the two concerned have already developed a relationship online. In a reversal of the normal pattern of friendship, they meet after they have got to know each other, not before.
Indeed, it is because they sense that they have enough in common, and would like to take the relationship to a new level, that they arranged a coffee or drink. Granted, it is an anxious experience, because for all the ease with which words flowed on the screen, there is no guarantee they will flow in the flesh. We are embodied creatures, and there is nothing so alarming, and alluring, as being physically present with someone. Only then can you answer the question of whether you really know them. Therein lies the frisson and fear. Accept it and see. In examining why we don’t become the person we want to be, I realize that I’ve run through a laundry list of negative choices that make us sound like closed-minded drones resisting any opportunity to change. That’s okay. Negatives are inevitable when we address why we don’t do something. But there’s hope. Nadeem defused an imagined enemy by altering his behavior in public forums. Rennie became a better manager by carrying an index card. Stan reduced family friction by avoiding family meetings. These behavioral transformations didn’t happen overnight. Nadeem needed eighteen months to get the nod from his colleagues. Do you ever wonder what you look like to a stranger? What does the server see when she brings you your coffee and bagel on a regular basis at the corner cafe? What does she see in your behavior of which you are entirely unaware? Every now and then through the course of life, someone shows up who sees us, who seems, indeed, to have X-ray vision for our psyches. Who seems to have stumbled onto our precise frequency.