Which Way is Up?

I had a friend who was into cave diving. Not just cave exploration, but full on, scuba gear, deep water cave diving. I had seen photo’s of this sort of intrepid exploration. The water was so pure and clear that the divers looked as if they were suspended in mid air. As I looked at the photo’s I remember thinking that even if I still had the bravado of my younger years, I would probably have still found this quite daunting. When chatting to my friend I remember him telling me that the crystal clear water held both the attraction & the danger for him. The attraction was obvious; it was breathtakingly beautiful; the danger was somewhere within the reality that you can easily lose a  sense of your orientation. Put simply, you can quickly lose your sense of which way is up & which way is down, a vital cog in the effort to stay alive. Pristine cave water is not always what fills those caves; In 2018 you might recall the saga that is referred to as the Thai Cave Rescue, where the waters that the rescuers found themselves in was anything but clear. The dynamic was still the same though; to survive, you had to maintain a real sense of up, down, in, out.

I find the above, quite a striking metaphor for 2020. My own experiences, and the stories of people around me, tell varying tales of navigation through both murky waters and clear. There are stories where people who were swimming in the same water, told completely different accounts about the effect that this was having on them. I get it. 

My own experience is mostly Ok. I have a good network of friends and family who keep an eye out for each other. But I think that we have gained enough wisdom to know that all the love and compassion in the world doesn’t ever 100% alleviate the murky water experience. I’ve had days where like many of you, it takes a few goes to remember what day it is. Or that feeling when you wake up in the morning, and the innocence of the overnight slumber suddenly gets swept away as you remember where you are and what’s going on in the world. Or how about the feeling of anxiety as it rises in your chest and as it rises, you wonder how you will cope; which way is up/down; how do I get out of this cave?

In thinking about all of this, I have wondered (sometimes out loud) about the nature of humans and our need to not live in isolation. Is our need for community in our DNA? Is vibrant community the best soil for sustained healthy growth? What effect does sustained isolation have on the human condition? I have done my share of solo trucking across much of Australia. There were stretches of 3 & 4 days where I would hardly cross paths with another soul. I loved the solitude of those times but the end of the trip always involved being with people who cared for me and I for them. 

Social media has certainly helped people to stay in touch, but it is no substitute for human touch, for a hug, for sharing a meal, for silence between people in the same space; for saying goodbye in the morning & for welcoming them home at nigh, for cuddling a yet “wordless” grandchild, for raucous laughter and celebration, for standing at a graveside farewelling someone that you love, but surrounded by people!!

Community is a powerful dynamic; If this year teaches us nothing else, perhaps the value of effective community is a valuable take away from the year. Like the divers in the cave, perhaps effective community is the best way that we can remain orientated, the only way that we can navigate our way around this landscape that is sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, sometimes murky and horrid, and usually a mix of everything in between