On the Importance of Meeting, Interacting, and Communing with the World
“I hate people!” This is a phrase we have all at some point heard, and most of us are guilty of saying this exact thing. Many times, we even chalk it up to social anxiety. But when we say it, do we really mean it? Are we really as socially anxiolytic as we think we are? The problem with this statement is that, as with any repeated thought, it influences us. We close ourselves off to the world because we’ve had a bad day or a bad experience. What we should be doing, though, is embracing the opportunities we have to meet and interact with the rest of existence— people, animals, even a tree, but the focus here is people.
Rejecting the opportunity to meet and interact with other souls—whether they are human, animal, or otherwise—is ultimately a rejection of one of the most basic and important purposes of living. From meeting these other souls and interacting with them, we get fulfillment of many of the other things we socially crave, whether we realize we crave them or not. That is, we find companionship, love, a sense of place, and belonging. When it comes full circle, in the long run, we get a chance to feel the emotional and spiritual connection to the rest of all existence.
Now, this isn’t to imply that it’s necessarily wrong to reject this connection with any particular soul— people, animals, etc.—but we need to consider what we’re doing when we do develop biases and prejudices for and against any particular being. While we must all find our own way of developing that spiritual and emotional connection to the rest of existence, it’s very important that we don’t limit ourselves by neglecting people for animals, animals for natural locations, natural locations for people, or developing any other bias. When we develop these biases and limit ourselves, in turn it detracts from the fuller experience of life and existence by limiting the connection we can have with the world around us.
My Own Experience
I have always preferred the company of animals, especially my cats, to the company of people. I used to swear that, when I retire, I would hermit away with a thousand cats and never see another human face. While I was never necessarily upset with my situation (that is, having only the company of my cats), I always felt something was missing—something big. And at times, this weighed so heavy on my soul and my heart that it would send me into a fairly deep depression.
After the end of my last relationship (due to unrelated circumstances) about two months ago, I again became something of a hermit and hid myself away from humanity in favor of spending most of my time alone with my cats. It took less than two weeks for the depression to set in. This time, though, I was determined to find out why. I wanted to know what it was I craved so desperately that I couldn’t be satisfied or comfortable with living the life I had always wanted. So I spent the next couple weeks doing some soul-searching. I prayed and meditated as much as I could and eventually the answers came to me.
I realized that my unhappiness and depression stemmed from a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Not a complete isolation, mind you, because I had my cats. I had my family, who I visit on a near daily basis, and I had quite a bit of “face time” at work with coworkers. I was far from isolated. But I was very disconnected. I craved a connection with people—as well as animals and nature—that simply wasn’t being fulfilled just by “face time” at work. I needed real friends who I could go out with occasionally; real friends who I could depend on; real friends who I shared a connection with.
So I realized that I needed real friends: but why? I’m an inquisitive person: I like to know the reasons behind everything. I wanted to know why I needed something I had never wanted before. More importantly, I wanted to know why I needed it so much that its absence was causing me to feel so depressed. So I kept up my meditation and prayer. I kept thinking and writing. And again, it came to me. I knew in that moment how Noah felt when the dove returned with an olive leaf after he sent it out from the ark, or how the Buddha must have felt when he reached enlightenment.
I needed these things because I wanted to be an active and recognized soul in the universe. I wanted my life to count for something and I wanted to be remembered by at least a couple people. I wanted to fall in love with someone special—my soul mate—and I wanted to have friends I could call at the best times or the worst times and they’d be there. I wanted to meet people, and leave a mark on every person I spoke to. I wanted to be a part of God’s creation, not separate from it.
It was about two weeks ago that I had this realization, and I have set out to make a change…
The Friend Experiment
So after I came to these realizations, I decided to start a new experiment. I called it “The Friend Experiment,” and even made a Facebook group for the idea. The experiment was going to force me to overcome any semblance of social anxiety I may have had—and fast! With this in mind, I realized how much work I would have to put into it. The thought not only excited me, it invigorated me, like I just had a million volts of electricity mainlined into my adrenal glands.
The idea behind the whole experiment was to introduce myself to and meet one new person every day. Even if these people never became anything more than just acquaintances, I would be putting myself out there for the world and meeting new people. Who knows: maybe some of these acquaintances would become real friends, or introduce me to people who would become real friends. Maybe I would meet my soul mate; maybe I would finally find people to start a band with; maybe I would just find some new drinking buddies. Whatever might come of it, it could only be for the better.
I plan to conduct my experiment for one year. This would mean one new friend every day for 365 days. That means I’m going to meet 365 new people in a year; I’m going to know 365 people at this time next year. When the thought first sunk in, and I realized what I was attempting, I realized how crazy the idea must sound to an outsider. I realized what I was taking on, and I almost got cold feet. But then I thought about what it would be like to succeed. I thought about the happiness I would get from the experience, and the experiences I would have in the process.
These thoughts fired me up even more, and I resigned myself to meet at least one new person every day, but I plan to meet more people than that. I started looking for new places to go: a dance party every Friday at the local bar; volunteering at the local animal shelter (so I can also bond with the animal companions I’ve always loved—and still do!); taking my guitar downtown on my off days to entertain strangers. The doors I’m opening for myself are limitless.
When I realized the true extent of what I could accomplish with this experiment, I realized what I had really contrived, and I had to share it with the world. I told everyone I knew—most of them being friends from high school that are now scattered across the world. I’m encouraging everyone to try their own “Friend Experiment.” I extend this encouragement to you, dear reader, and I hope you will take the time to reach out to the world around you and leave your mark!
May God bless you with happiness, abundance, and prosperity—and not necessarily all financially! It is true that the most valuable things—those which are truly invaluable—are the connections we make, the impressions we have on others, and the legacy we leave behind.