I have this close friend who regularly calls me when he’s driving by himself and is either stuck in traffic or has a long commute. The sole purpose of his calling me is for me to keep him company on his drive. Needless to say, in our high-tech instant messaging culture this might seem awkward or weird or far too intimate for friend, but I find it more natural than texting. Maybe I am a bit weird because of it, but as Marnie from “Girls” says” talking on the phone is second-best on the totem pole of communication and I agree because it allows you to respond to the emotion in a person’s voice.
There is something about that gesture; that calling someone to talk to because your car and the road ahead, actually empty or not, are empty of any connection. There is something deep inside of mw that resists the ‘millennial’ notion of individualism, the one that suggests we do not need anyone to feel fulfilled, and finds it aberrantly wrong. Refraining from going into the developmental reasons for which we require companionship (biological survival, physical security, and cognitive development), I know that, even when we are physically and economically self-sufficient adults, there is something that will always depend on others. I do not mean friends to drink with or coworkers to exchange witty e-mails and banter with or distant family, because distance within families is common amongst millennials who do not live with their parents or economically depend on them and not because of negative pasts. What I mean is something which should be a self-evident truth: we are not ‘humans’, we are ‘human beings’ and the ‘being’ in human is intrinsically, inherently, and necessarily derived from deep emotional connections with others. Why is it that my friend, an extrovert who is quite independent and actually prefers to be alone, needs someone to talk to on his long drives? What drives him to seek to not be alone in his journey? And that really is the core of it all: we cannot be alone on the journey which is our lives. It begins when we are conceived and ends when we die and in order to really live, to know what it feels like to ‘live’, we need to connect. Connect is not a message or a conversation. Connection is when you can see the vulnerability in someone else and they can see yours and you do not shy away. Connection is when someone calls you to make conversation while he drives and for that hour or two you put your life on hold just to talk about unimportant things with him because he is not afraid to show you his loneliness and you are not afraid to try and erase it with your presence. Connecting is necessary to life, to live like beings and not like humans. It is connections which give meaning to life and make it worth living. Connecting with someone makes us feel alive.