Only Connect – never more important!

In the face of a seemingly unending litany of disasters and human suffering, it is more important now than ever to understand the connectivity of humanity. We can respond to the horrors of Christchurch, Sendai, Rwanda or Libya either by thanking fate that we dodged that particular bullet, or by empathizing with the pain in a personal, yet universal way. Economically, politically, socially we are more connected now than ever before. Our security is inextricably bound to the security of Palestinians, Libyans, Chinese and North Koreans; our communities share blood and family ties with every other community in the world, our social networking is forging very real and profound friendships across borders and oceans. The biological truth that we all come from the same organic compounds forged at the beginning of time ( a scientific and pragmatic understanding of our “oneness,”) takes on more immediate relevance when we witness our brothers and sisters in such distress. I don’t know exactly where this is all going, but if these new engines of “connectedness” can topple deeply rooted, autocratic regimes as well as reveal, Venus-like, fully formed teenage heart- throb / pop-stars, then, surely, they can help us find a way to reach out and heal those in peril all over our fragile planet.

So, especially now, remember, my friends……Only Connect!

Charles Shaughnessy

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45 thoughts on “Only Connect – never more important!

  1. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the web the simplest factor to have in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get irked whilst people consider worries that they plainly do not realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the entire thing with no need side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  2. First, I want to thank you Charlie for posting such an excellent blog. I spent a great deal of time this past weekend thinking very similar thoughts. Sometimes it makes me really quite sad that it takes events like tsunamis, earthquakes and other tragedies (natural or otherwise) for us to care about our neighbors. I remember how in the weeks after 9-11, I really felt like I was a part of a nation whose sum was greater than its parts. I felt so completely “connected,” as I talked to neighbors I had never even met before. It was like we were all Americans above anything else (race, political views, religion). The image of Congress on the steps of the Capitol building singing “God Bless America,” without regard to partisanship, is as vivid in my mind as the black smoke billowing out of those towers. Although 9-11 was one of the most difficult days in the history of the United States, 9/12, 9/13, 9/14, etc were some of our finest moments. As this latest tragedy is unfolding in Japan, our hearts go out to them. When I say that though, the word “them” gives me pause. I’m not from New York (I have never even been there) yet I say 9-11 happened to “us.” With this new wave of ultimate connectivity and extreme interdependency (economically and socially) I wonder if we will ever view world events as happening to “us” as humans and not “them” as Japanese, Haitian, Chilean, etc. As these natural disasters wreak havoc on our planet, I can only hope that these events can draw us all closer together and in a global sense our sum can be greater than our parts.

    • I agree completely couldn’t have said it better and what you said reminds me of a song by Garth Brooks actually called “We shall be Free” , and here is some of it…When the last child cries for a crust of bread,
      When the last man dies for just words that he said,
      When there’s shelter over the poorest head,
      We shall be free,

      When the last thing we notice is the color of skin,
      And the first thing we look for is the beauty within,
      When the skies and the oceans are clean again,
      Then we shall be free,

      When we’re free to love anyone we choose,
      When this worlds big enough for all different views,
      When we’re all free to worship from our own kind of pew,
      Then we shall be free,

      And when money talks for the very last time,
      And nobody walks a step behind,
      When there’s only one race and that’s mankind,
      Then we shall be free

    • Wade Phillips, long time defensive coach in the NFL, was named as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. One thing I noticed about Coach Phillips, throughout his tenure in Dallas, is that in every press conference or interview when referring to the defense he would use terms like “we,” “us” and “our.” When referring to the offense he would use words like “they” and “them.” Unfortunately all those years as a defensive-minded coach had caused him to become completely entrenched in that train of thought. Even though he had been given the role as head coach and was responsible for both offense and defense, he only identified with the defense. Due to his inability to change his mindset and begin to relate to all of the players and not just the defense, the team eventually crumbled. The team was stocked with talented players, but they weren’t playing as a team and this eventually led to Coach Phillips being let go, as well as a failed season. We, as a nation, are no longer in a position (as Charlie said) economically, politically, socially or in regards to security to continue to only identify with those who look like us, talk like us, etc. The “oneness” Charlie mentioned is the antidote to failure.

      • Oooh…something I can sink my teeth into. Love the sports analogy. The “oneness” Charlie refers to definitely applies to teamwork–and, to continue the sports theme, it’s almost like defensive coaches like Wade Phillips see the offense as the opposition (as in offense versus defense), and offensive coaches see the defense in the same way–rather than viewing the team they are playing as the opposition (in other words, the Cowboys defense should see the Washington Redskins as the opposition instead of the Cowboys offense). It’s one reason why I think special teams coaches (like John Harbaugh, current coach of the Ravens and former special teams coach for the Eagles) have a greater chance for success, because they are used to seeing the teamwork necessary to achieve victory, especially since special teams includes players from both offense and defense. You do need to see the big picture to achieve “oneness”; we can’t all go hide in our individual bunkers and hope to feel connected with the outside world.

        Meanwhile–(and this also relates to a previous blog) is it just me, or is anyone else a bit troubled by the news that Charlie Sheen is going to have a one-man show at Radio City Music Hall, and that $1 for each ticket sold will go to Red Cross Japanese Earthquake Fund? Sounds like a noble gesture, except when you realize that ticket prices range from $79.50 to $750.00. Tickets are selling out–makes you really wonder what people’s priorities are, unless they see it as a way to get entertained and feel a bit better because they contributed to earthquake relief (even if it was a token contribution). You can contribute more by texting to the various relief agencies–and you don’t encourage Charlie Sheen to continue to behave irresponsibly.

    • Are you really “just” an actor? Or do you moonlight as Bill Gates or someone brilliant like that? Obviously you are way smarter than Charlie Sheen! lol Would it be to pushy to ask your IQ score? Kidding! Unless you want to share.

    • You are so right stating that all these disasters and uprisings are bound to affect us one way or another. Or one day or another. We need to help each other because it could very easily be us next. Dodging bullets is indeed a bad way to look at the big picture. The Japanese are our brothers and the quicker we accept this fact, the better off we shall all be. There are so many tragedy’s afoot sure makes one wonder what is going on beneath the surface. But connectivity is one thing that will help us to weather the unforeseen that lies yet ahead. There is always strength in numbers. Seems to be we are living in a trying and turbulent time period. That part is very confusing. Hopefully more light will be shed upon this situation in the near future. Hoping not mother nature simply catching up with our pollutions etc. Seems we need the web now more than ever. I am thankful that we now have the web to connect with the rest world so quickly now and is available nearly everywhere much thanks to cell phones. The pay phone has become obsolete.

      • A little depressed about all the news lately but who isn’t right now? But thanks for asking. Has been a great spring so far. hope all is going well for you and your son.

        • The news is sad right now. It’s difficult to watch people’s lives being torn apart. I wake up every day thinking about them, and our University is raising money to send over there for bottled water, food, and clothing. It will be long recovery, and we won’t forget it. Otherwise, me and Brennan are doing fine he’s ready for pre-school, and it’ll be hard to let him go but I can’t keep him a baby forever.

          • That is great that your school is helping out. Am also afraid that it will be a long recovery road for many of the Japanese people. Seems like just yesterday we were making the same statements about Haiti. Preschool is such fun, he will have a big time then and you will get a much deserved break. My youngest will be starting kindergarten after repeating a year of preschool due to a language delay. He is talking great now after 3 years of intensive therapy. I couldn’t be more relieved. He made big strides every month from completely non verbal. They do grow up fast so treasure what is left of baby days while you can. Later it gets very uncool to have a hovering mom so wave or kiss quickly when dropping off.

            • This whole earthquake, tsunami, radiation scare in Japan has just turned my world upside down. My cousin is going over there to teach, and I’m afraid for him because of the radiation. The government probably won’t say how bad it is just because they don’t want to scare anyone. What is scary is the radiation is seeping into the ocean, and they have to watch it closely as it travels in the pacific. Haiti was horrible to watch as well. I’m so glad I can’t see into the future. So glad your little one is doing well and going to school. Little boys first love is their mother thank God cause I don’t want to let him go. He’s still in the stage where he wants me all the time. Love it, and cherish these moments oh so much.

              • I didn’t even consider it going into the water. Thanks for bringing it up. That would could be horrible. My son was wondering if there could be an explosion underground could maybe cause another earthquake there. And my husband was talking about the radiation possibly going into the air or atmosphere and then the wind could carry it basically anywhere. IDK! The news said is recommended to stay 50 miles away from the plant. So your cousin should be fine to go on with his plans.
                Hope not to make you feel bad about losing your baby. They will always need you for along time, just they like to pretend sometimes they don’t. Mothers and sons are usually close. you are so right there. I am very protective over my youngest, i hope i can ease up some too. After worrying for him and his future so long i hope to be able to ease up to public school and not worry how things are going. I know how you feel. My oldest who is nearly 18 hates to admit that he still needs me and ignores me quickly if his friends are around. Is just a little tough letting go sometimes as a parent but that is what we have to learn to do in time. You have a long ways to go so don’t worry just yet. After caring for someone for so long is kinda shock that your job is nearly over. Having him when i was so young. I don’t know what it is to be an adult without being someones mother. He has always been there since i moved out of my parents house after high school. Now need to find out who i am as an adult and not just mom. Feels weird. If not for my second marriage and kids i am afraid it would be hard for me. But i was always hoping i would make it this far so i am proud of myself too.

      • Add me on facebook if you’d like to chat. I’d like that too if you want to. Since you know my name already. lol Message me anytime.

      • Oh, you were wondering of some hard luck story from me. maybe? Heck no! i have nothing up my sleeve that would hold a candle next to this magnitude of catastrophes. So i figured i’d spare you guys at least this time.

  3. Hi Charlie,
    Another great post. The level of destruction in Japan is heart wrenching. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. In times of need, I think we are able to connect with one another through our empathy. The money and aide flows in and the healing begins. I think that before last Friday, most of us walked around not thinking much about the welfare of the Japanese. How can this level of goodwill be maintained when the crisis is over? It’s in our nature to think that we only have so much love and understanding to give to other people. I want to believe that we all have an endless ability to offer our love and support to our brothers and sisters all over the world. I hope we can stay connected.

  4. Charlie—so very well said as usual–I think a tragedy such as the tsunami onlymakes us realize that the only boundaries that exist are the ones we put up ourselves. We are all part of humankind and something like this only brings this fact home to all of us. Some one here posted about the poise, courage and dignity with which the Japanese people are dealing withthis monstrous event–You know it makes me think about the looting and out-right stealing that went on here in our very own country after Katrina–we should be ashamed! Just maybe an event like this natural disaster is what’s needed to bring this world together–I certainly hope so–Thanks for making us think again, Charlie–we missed you-

    • Bev, I had the same thought….no looting, no able-bodied men carrying televisions through thigh-high water when they should be helping with sandbags and cleanup. But, I also remember Sept 11…also in America, with no looting and people helping their fellow man without concern for socioeconomic divides, ethnicity, politics or religion. At least Japan is a nation that we CAN help, and know that the aid will actually get to the needy citizens, instead of being intercepted by drug lords or a dictator’s army and used for weapons/drugs. It is heartbreaking to see the news coming out of Japan…God bless them. There but for the grace of God go all of us.

      • This is true. Not sure that we would be go so well behaved around here. While reading this i just got a flash back of the LA Riots.

      • It’s ironic that you should mention looting, because I read on newsonjapan.com that a brewery was damaged in the tsunami. The people are now carting off crates of beer.

  5. I am also very grateful to have “dodged the bullet” but my heart is with those who have failed the bullet and dodge it has many in the world
    As for the Japanese people have to say that I was struck by their poise, courage and dignity
    My heart is with all the wonderful people who will help and I am grateful to the internet because it allows us to be more ‘aware of what’s happening in the world and thus makes us more’ together, and because it allows me to have in Italy to know the thoughts of you who are in America and understand that my thoughts are your own thoughts
    I thank Charles makes this possible because

  6. Great blog Charlie! We are all connected, we are all humans. I feel so
    much for Japan… Our brothers and sisters. Our social network is
    so great we can feel so much more though it. We do need to
    reach out and help heal those on our fragile planet.
    We are safe now but where would we be if in the same situation.
    We would want others to reach out as well.
    Love to all.

  7. Well said Charles every time a read your posts(and I’m new at this blogging) I think that you should right a book cause this post is touching. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have known about what happened in Japan because we didn’t have social networking. It’s opened our eyes a little wider, and I hope our hearts a little softer. We can get caught up in our lives and sometimes, but what has happened recently has reminded me that human beings matter more than just things, degrees, prestige, money, status. I’m so glad we have each other to connect with, because friends are more valuable than things. Let’s help each other heal now, and not be blind to their suffering. Love&Peace:)

    • Are you trying to tell us that because we didn’t have social networking ten years ago nobody knew about 9/11? Nobody knew about the bombing of the World Trade Center? Nobody knew about Chernobyl or Bhopal? Nobody knew about the earthquakes in California in 1994 (Northridge) or 1989 (San Francisco–which I actually saw live, since I was getting ready to watch the World Series)? People don’t just know what’s going on around the world because of social networking. People know what’s going on around the world because they want to know more about the world around them, the good and the bad. Getting back to my earlier comment–one reason why there were protests in the streets and at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 was because Vietnam was in everyone’s living room. And big surprise–the Internet did not exist, televisions had either antenna on the set (often wrapped in foil) or on the roof of the house, people still read newspapers by holding them in their hands (and then using them to line birdcages when they had finished reading them), and you actually wrote letters (and used correct spelling) to communicate with people, if you did not use the telephone to talk directly to them. Yet even though they did not have social networking, they still were informed of the issues and protested against what they saw as an injustice. You make it sound like before social networking, nobody knew what was going on in the world, just because you weren’t able to chat about it, post it on someone’s wall, or blog about it. Yes, the ability to connect with others through cyberspace is a good thing, although sometimes I do miss the personal contact that occurs when two people (or a group of people) sit down and have an actual conversation in which all of the participants are in the same room (and I don’t mean the same chat room). There’s a reason why treaties are still negotiated in person and not through Facebook messages, e-mails, or faxes.

      • I think that’s exactly what I’m saying. We didn’t know in a millisecond 10 years ago about the world trade center. We had the news for that. I’m saying for the people who maybe have a shift they work and can’t get to the regular news they can find out on twitter, facebook, and through social media because someone would be blogging, chatting, or posting about it. We can’t speak for everyone, but perhaps I should have made myself clearer on that. Some people with small children can’t watch much television, or get the chance to know what is going on. People know what’s going on quicker with social media than they would with just the news coverage. For example, I hadn’t had the chance to watch the news with work, raising a 4 year old, and earning a degree, and the only way I knew of the earthquake was by facebook where I connect with friends, and they were talking about it. Then I became tuned in to the news after that. Perhaps I should have been more clearer, but then again maybe some should be a little nicer.

        • I apologize if my reply offended you. But your remarks make me a bit frustrated. You truly think that people didn’t know what happened on 9/11 because we didn’t have social media back then? I don’t know about you, but I found out about it when I left class at 9:15 that morning because the campus information channel had been changed to CNN–saw the second plane fly into the tower before heading back to my office–and I was glued to the Internet the rest of the day (except when I occasionally took a break and watched the television in the dorm lounge downstairs with the students). That night, I had class (immigration history), but there wasn’t a whole lot of learning going on that day. We adjourned after an hour of talking about how the events that day would affect U.S. immigration policy (a few students had friends and relatives who worked near Ground Zero and truly had other concerns that day); as we know, this discussion about immigration policy continues to the present day. But once it registered what was happening–that it wasn’t just some wayward pilot flying into a building like had happened in 1945–trust me, people were aware almost instantaneously, or at least as often as they refreshed their Internet browser. We didn’t need the social media to find out; besides, most offices prohibit people from using Twitter, Facebook, etc. while on the job because it decreases productivity.

          Sometimes, I miss the days when we didn’t have to know information immediately…and actually talked to people instead of communicating through blogs, chats, and tweets. Then again, I’m an historian who’s usually buried in the 18th century, a time when it took 6-8 weeks for mail to travel from Britain to the colonies and people went to the docks in anticipation of a letter from home, instead of waiting for the little red bubble to appear on Facebook.

          • I see what your saying about finding out the information about what happened on 9/11. I was mainly talking about what happens in other countries farther away from us, but again I should have been clearer. Social Media helps us to know what happens in other countries quicker. It certainly was a day that changed us forever. When your at home(USA) it’s easy to keep in touch we got the cell phones, word-of-mouth, internet, tv. We were attacked, and it’s something burned into our minds forever. Anyway, it’s fine it’s harder to describe what I mean online because people can’t see expressions, and clarified details. That’s the part of conversations I miss.

  8. Okay, I’m a bit confused–but by the time I finish writing this comment I might have it figured out. As someone who just returned to teaching after a week off (spring break), connection to me is something a bit different–connecting with my students as I teach them the material. Today, in the one class, I was able to show PowerPoint slides including photos from a couple of historic sites that I visited last summer during what I started calling the “magical history tour.” So, in order to help my students better understand industrial development in the early 19th century, I showed them photos from Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (an iron furnace complex in southeastern Pennsylvania) and Lowell National Historical Park (a textile manufacturing complex in northeastern Massachusetts). To make sure they were paying attention, I even included a slide of me as a costumed interpreter/park ranger when I worked at Hopewell in 1984. The point–showing them how the past isn’t static, and we still try to recreate it in order to help people better understand what life was like in times when the technology was far less advanced. For instance, the students laughed when I showed them the “home entertainment center” of the 1820s: a table with a deck of cards. We checked out each park’s website so they could find more information (which I hope they do–after all, it will be on their next exam), and I told them stories about what it was like to work as a costumed interpreter and how in a community like Hopewell the owners literally looked down upon the workers, as the ironmaster’s home was on a hill, and the workers’ homes were in a low-lying area prone to flooding from a nearby creek.

    Meanwhile–I forbid my students from using technology while in class, as they need to focus on learning instead of checking messages, texting, answering calls (yes, I have had that happen in class), etc. Yes, I have a Blackberry–but I use it to check the time and do not check for messages during class (even though sometimes that blinking red light does seem to taunt me). And I have learned to embrace technology as a way to help me “connect” better with my students–and I do know that at least one person who will read this message knows of one special way I was able to do that this semester. Plus, there is that lovely reminder in my office that I see when I head to class…okay, now I’m getting a bit maudlin.

    And yes, technology has brought the challenges of the 21st century literally into our laps (as I type this on a laptop). Two hundred years ago, when the New Madrid earthquake shifted the course of the Mississippi River, people didn’t know for weeks what had happened. In the 1960s people’s views of war changed forever as the conflict in Vietnam was brought into our living rooms; today the Internet alerts us almost instantaneously about nuclear meltdowns in Japan that have resulted from the massive earthquake that shifted the islands (8 miles to the east, if I recall correctly) and the ensuing tsunami. I don’t think it’s the end of the world as we know it, but we definitely know that it’s not the same world as one week ago.

  9. I swore I wasn’t going to be so quick to respond to your next post; I don’t like appearing as though I do nothing but sit around waiting for a chance to respond to someone’s post, but this is definitely a subject that has been on my mind and I am on Spring Break, so why not. In fact, I posted a blog this morning that in a small way relates to this one. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in who we are and what we stand for that we forget that in spite of our nationality, political persuasion, religion or lack thereof, we really are all of one race–the human race and this alone is enough to connect us in a very real and important way. Conflict and natural disasters have gone on since this earth’s beginning, and I suppose it will continue until the end, but we do have a way to reach out and connect in a way that we never have had before. We all can’t jump on an airplane and fly to these various regions that have experienced so much devastation, but the internet is a valuable method for rallying charitable contributions and organizing relief efforts in needed ways. Alone our efforts are futile, but unitedly they can bring great relief to many. I do have to say in all honesty that I am grateful to have “dodged this bullet”, but my heart is still drawn out to these people and I can’t help but see myself and even more particularly my children’s faces in their faces. None of us know when it will be our turn for that bullet to hit us. I am grateful each night when I can go to bed in such favorable circumstances and when I wake to a new and beautiful day, but I know there are many today who have not been as fortunate. I am grateful to give in any way I can to help those who suffer, although I know my efforts are so insignificant when compared to the overall needs. But, I have to add, that along with the great blessing of the internet that has been a gift of modern technology to help us connect, there is one way that has always been available. We can connect through prayer. Maybe it is too arrogant of us to think that we can meet these challenges alone. Yet, I also believe that more often than not, God answers our prayers through us. Therefore, prayer without works means nothing; likewise works without the help of God may also lead us to a dead end. Maybe there is a need to connect to someone other than each other.

    • Well, I’m normally pretty vocal on Charlie’s blogs…but for this one, for now…all I have to say it “Yeah, what Jeannie said”. Excellent reply.

    • Amen, Jeannie! I couldn’t have put it better. I definitely agree with you about getting caught up in who we are as in what we wear, drive, or where we work or live. But when something like this happens to someone who is stripped of everything including these things, they become simply a vulnerable, human being just like the rest of us. Therefore, we see each other as “real” mortal people struggling through life like everyone else only with problems that are magnified tenfold. I see it so often in the hospital when patients are stripped of their health, privacy, and even their street clothes. Suddenly, with everyone in a hospital gown, I am seeing them for who they really are; not the person who “dresses like wealth” or “dresses like poverty” but instead just a person who is struggling in their journey and needs another human being’s help regardless of their status in life. It brings us both to the same level allowing us to “connect” as patient and nurse. Jeannie, I especially agree with your comment about “connecting through prayer”. No amount of money can even compare to the power of prayer. We can help by interceding on their behalf by talking to God Who is always available. I don’t ever have to worry about that connection being broken because of downed power lines or cable damage due to natural disasters. My God is the God of nature and physics Who controls all things and allows them to happen for a reason unbeknown to us. We just have to learn to trust Him. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

  10. Charlie,

    Again, your eloquence is unending and so true. My heart goes out to the people of Japan right now as their country is in such turmoil. I am so heartfelt that I live in a country that thinks about the humanity of it all and comes to the aid of whoever needs it. I thank God that I am able to give what I can give, so that these foundations such as Red Cross, etc., can help those in the most need. Thank you, Charlie, for your words.

  11. Charles, I agree completely. It is more important now more than ever to understand the connectivity of humanity. And regarding the very real and profound friendships, I would like to thank you because through you I have come, in part, to know some of the most wonderful people. So, thank you.
    As for helping those in peril, Japan comes to mind. It does my heart good to see how many people care and how many charities there are giving money for a relief fund. They are in our thoughts and in our prayers.

  12. very true…and i was thinking about the same sort of thing when i watched (on the news) the residual waves hitting the west coast of the U.S. Sometimes it seems as if a country like Japan is a world away, but we are truly neighbors on this planet.

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