I fear the world my daughters are walking into.
Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, so many others that I don’t know or remember, and now Dallas……
My daughters are preparing to walk into a world of fear and hatred, a world where because of their skin color, their religion, they will be instantly judged, and wrongly so.
They are walking into a world that is teetering on the edge, economies showing signs of serious strain, people working longer hours, working harder, only to barely make ends meet.
They are walking into a world where senseless violence is the norm, where isolation is commonplace, and where the selfie is more important than the face to face conversation.
I shut off the news this morning, feeling this blanket of dread covering me as I learned about Dallas and the intentional way that those involved set themselves up on high ground and waited for their police targets to appear.
As I poked through my own social media, I came across a post from the page called “Breathing for Peace” from a man named Johann Hari. This is the post below:
Best thing I’ve read in ages … “Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.
Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.
We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need.
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things not people. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that.”
So, I looked into Johann Hari further. First, I had a look at an article written by Johann here, which led me to a TED talk that Johann did in 2015:
As I read and listened to all about this idea of addiction, this quote struck me right in the face about all that’s going on around us in the world.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
The human connection. We are so incredibly disconnected from each other, understanding each other, understanding those who are different, either by skin, religion, socioeconomic status, sex, or whatever other title we want to throw down. We simply cannot relate to others and hide through the distractions around us. It’s why we see the political foolishness we have, it’s why we see the senseless killing around us, and it’s why we see the addictions of drugs, alcohol, and even technology reaching all around us.
So, how do we change? Ha! If I knew this, I’d be sharing it with the world. All I know, there are so many more things that connect us together as human beings than should be tearing us apart as you are seeing right now.
I’ll leave you with this:
If you are not familiar with Eric Whitacre, he is a composer who’s created a “virtual choir”, having people download parts or his music, practice them, then submitting themselves singing back to his website. They are put together, and suddenly, you have a virtual choir.
Now, you are asking me, “But Darin, you are talking about being disconnected. Isn’t this exactly what you are talking about??” Yup, it certainly is. However, as I reconnected with this piece of music today, the lyrics, the music itself has connected 5905 singers together in one incredibly uplifting and beautiful piece. My hope, that music inspired these people to find their connection with the music in their local community. I see music connect my daughters with so many things, both instrumental music and vocal. Both daughters are very talented in these arenas and I’ve seen the impact that it has on their lives. For myself, the song just makes my heart happy. I do allow myself that disconnect, and forget that bliss of what being human is all about, the bliss of flight.
I fear for the world that my daughters are preparing to enter. Yet, there is beauty to be found is so many things around us, so many ways that we can find that human connection. We’ve forgotten that it’s the connections that make live, not the things.
We need to find our wings, our paradise, and learn to fly again.
July 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm
I wish my husband were here to share this with. He was an alcoholic who stopped drinking 30 years ago, and while he thought of himself as a hermit, a recluse, he really had many people who cared about him. I so wish I could have gotten his take on “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”
I also so sympathize with you in your fears for your daughters in the current world. The presidential election is so important, but local ones are too, and work on connecting in local organizations. I saw a photo online from a Dallas newspaper, of some Black Lives Matter protesters and counterprotesters in a group hug, sharing their emotional pain. There is hope, and we have to build on that. And also work on enriching the “cages” of those whose lives are empty. Good luck!