“And ever has it been known that love knows not its depth until the hour of separation”—Khalil Gibran
We take our bodies for granted while we are healthy and our limbs are in working condition. Everyday activities like walking, talking, working, sleeping, eating, drinking etc. are performed without the slightest thought of how our different body parts are in sync with these actions. Take the hands for instance. We use them to touch, hold or move them for different purposes but if there is a wee bit of injury, it can cause us to become irritable as it may hamper our day to day chores. A minor cut can result in the entire body feeling the pain. The micro-millimeter connection that we have with our entire physical system is so acute that even a poking needle point can trigger an unspeakable tremor throughout healthy bodies ruling out those suffering from numbness issues.
Imagine then the frustration of those who have had to lose their limbs. Whether in war or on account of some disease, the fact is that when even such a small thing as a finger goes missing, it causes a great deal of inconvenience in day to day affairs what to talk of a leg or an arm. Again, other infirmities like blindness, deafness, mental retardation etc. too have their own set of associated problems preventing a person from enjoying life to its fullest. The condition that is better known as physical disability can be one of the most difficult things for any human being to handle especially if it means depending on someone else for assistance. There are of course innumerable examples of robust and strong willed people who have managed to overcome such impairments and have proved their remarkableness in defeating their deformities, but it takes a lot more than the normal amount of effort.
All these feelings of pain or hurt or any sensation, for that matter is because of the network of neurons that creates an electrifying common thread which can only be referred to as “connection.” This is much easier to understand when viewed physically as in the case of say, electricity where a massive grid system enables its regular supply but if a single link is affected, it can disrupt that supply. However, the intangible angle is one that is definitely most difficult to comprehend, but it does exist. That non-physical connection we have with other human beings, animals, even the plants, mountains, oceans, our surroundings and all that we care for or not care for, is very much present in our lives. We take them for granted but when they are pulled away from us, it is then that we realize their significance. Thus, the pangs of separation!
On a lighter note, while Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi had a different take on this aspect: “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation” while Michael Bassey Johnson wrote: “If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them”. One needs immense spiritual strength to achieve this level but generally this is not the case. We humans have a great tendency to lament when torn away from the people and places we love. This is just the beginning of treading the path of understanding the concept of connection.
The invisible thread that connects every single one of us can only be described as ‘humanity’. Could be a misnomer for our relationship with non-humans yet it appears to have a close association with everything that eventually joins us to the universe. Thus, humanity within itself combines those characteristics we possess as individuals with respect to our own bodies. Consequently, this means that the intensity of pain suffered by one should have some impact on others too which of course, does not seem to be the position in our daily routine lives. Every day there are people who are injured, murdered, physically and mentally abused, tortured, starved, struck by natural calamities, restless because of various troubles yet we continue as if nothing has happened. Here lies the irony of it all. These painful emotions may not be physically obvious but they definitely leave their footprints on the entire humanity. Can be compared more to the domino effect where movement of the first card in thousands lined up, would ultimately flatten the last one.
Minor tiffs, differences, conflicts, let alone the major ones between human beings, do show signs of concussion in the long run. Gautama Buddha beautifully explained this when he said: “There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills”. Taking a cue from this statement, one can easily comprehend the state of this world where in their frenzy to fulfill their ambitions, governments and people are willing to go to any extreme without once considering what their course of action might have on others.
A cursory look around the globe would reveal the acrid fruits of no-care attitude and disconnection with humanity with hardly a spot on earth that is free from their pangs. Whatever happens in one region, whatever is done by a person or a group of persons, sends ripples to distant lands, to other people or nations, as the case may be, like a stone thrown in a pool of water. We do look at people with prejudicial spectacles, disdain and hatred, wanting to cut ourselves off from them in the hope that their woes do not find their way to us but we hardly ever try to mend the broken links to restore our connections with them.
These ever widening gulfs that we have created ourselves are merely accelerating our journey towards an apocalypse from which there is no return. Like us today, perhaps our earlier lost civilizations, remnants of which are strewn across the world, persisted in maintaining this disconnection with humanity because as Joseph Fort Newton points out: “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges”.
Dilemma is that we realize this when it is too late.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)