A few days ago around the subject of social contact, someone commented here to suggest that the internet could provide much of what I need for less effort. The internet does play a very important role in my life at the moment, and I value the intellectual stimulus it provides. It’s an insight into other people’s truths and experiences, a source of information and contact. I enjoy connecting with people through thinking. But, having let this lead for some years, I know also that it isn’t enough.
There can be genuine emotional connections made online, but those are rare. It can more readily sustain existing emotionally involved relationships than create them. I did, admittedly, find and fall in love with my husband via the internet, but that’s not generally how it goes for me, and often people who try this find it doesn’t work out. It’s very hard to form enduring emotional connections with someone you’ve not met in person. Not impossible, certainly, but very hard. There are forms of connection-making that happen in person and are hard to replicate at a distance.
Over the weekend, I sat in silence with a group of Druids, and stood rather less quietly with some very friendly sheep. I can sit in silence without other Druids, but to do it in company is a different experience, and having explored it repeatedly, it’s definitely richer. Without speaking or touching, the reality of being in the same place with people does something. The reality of being in the same place with sheep also does something, something affirming and comforting and not terribly easy to put into words. The acceptance of sheep is not something to take lightly.
Creatures of a non-human persuasion are often very choosy. They come closer or they stay away, and even if they don’t know you, they make those decisions at surprising speed. If they accept you, they’ll come over and make contact, and if they don’t, they will run away from any attempt you make at contact. The message is always clear. Sometimes, over time, they will decide that you can be trusted after all. Degrees of acceptance and closeness are available, coming in for a look or letting you be around are also powerful statements of acceptance, especially when dealing with wild creatures.
To be accepted is a powerful thing. Human creatures are not terribly good at physical expressions of acceptance and non-acceptance. We move closer when we don’t mean it, touch when we want to flee, stay when we feel uneasy, run away sometimes just because we can and not because of how we feel about this particular person but because we’ve needed to run away for a while…
When the contact is real, even if it’s just same space contact, not touching, something happens. Some of that is emotional and about feelings of being accepted and affirmed. I don’t think that’s all of it. Each one of us is an energy presence, and that energy occupies more than our bodies. To bring one body into proximity with another is to bring two energy systems into proximity. I’ve done that with magnets, but otherwise my notion of the science of energy is sketchy, my understanding of electricity in the human body even more so. What I do have is the first hand experience to say ‘something is different about this’, even though I can’t explain any of it. Something happens.
There is something nurturing, healing, uplifting, transformative about good contact, about sharing space with other living things. I feel the same way about trees. There is something in the exchange, something needed and good. Which means that while I value the head-sharing of the online world, I keep looking for those places where I can be physically in the same space as someone else. I often find non-human others easier company, but perhaps I can learn from that to better understand what it is I want to find in my own species.