Only Connect

Last night I saw The Social Network on DVD (Thanks, SAG!). It totally captured the irony of this connected life. The movie also questions the primacy of male nerd culture, the difficulty in small business start ups, and the ownership of creative ideas.

In a closing scene Zuckerberg is left alone in a corporate office right after a potential friend declines his dinner invitation. He opens his computer to Facebook befriend her online. It is lonely, true. Yet, the scene reminds me that when the real world stings of rejection, having an onscreen persona can ameliorate the sting.

There is a place for online meet ups. For example, today I’m hoping to meet some of my fellow NaNoWriMo writers whom I’ve only received emails from during national novel writing month. Having companions while being a lonely writer has led me to greater compassion for other writers. I am grateful for my writing compatriots’ inspiration and productivity prompts. I’m grateful for real life workmates too. I’m always IM’ing my work buddy for motivation on being more productivity (Thanks, Beth!).


The president reminds the nation to connect in his awesome inspiring address this week:

“Use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

I have written before about being wired to care and seeing my own need for compassion as a weakness and not a strength, especially on the job (which, I know, is ironic, given that I work at a Christian agency.)

I think my desire to connect and be compassionate and have compassion is okay. It is bound up with my innate and human drive to be part of a community.

I have no idea why I receive weekly emails from Rector Bill Tully of St. Bart’s Church, but I’m glad that I do. (I should visit this church for my church a day (week) blog )

Tully is one of those brilliant church people who is addressing and writing about the need for connection and community.

This week he says, “…America is a hothouse of communities. In towns, cities, neighborhoods, congregations, clubs, schools, service projects, even in offices and places of work, we have a chance to practice the known virtues of love.”

Tully quotes our President too, who said:

“I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

What he said.

Wired to Care

I had an absolutely awful day at work last week. And I felt, “Shoot. My problem is that I care too much. I like getting a gold star. I like being appreciated. My caring for others, wanting them to care about me — This is my failing, my Achilles Heel. I should care less. I should be crabby. Then people will respect me. I will definitely get ahead if I am critical and negative in my job, instead of being caring and collaborative.”  

My sister has said that she and I are alike, “We are just wired to care.” Then I saw that same expression – Wired to Care — in someone’s Twitter feed. So I followed the link to this lovely website, promoting a book by the same name. (And as I’ve mentioned on this blog, I like reading book reviews and visiting book blogs and yes, occasionally, I like reading books too!)

On this site, the author of the book , Dev Patnaik, talked about how corporations like Target and Ford have discovered that if their employees care about their customers, care about their products, care about one another, the workers are more productive. I’m sure the workplace is more pleasant. Why does the power of empathy surprise me?  

My mouth hung open as I listened to Dev talk. I had to Google a management expert to be reminded that kindness and caring, these are not failings, these are assets. And companies like assets.

At St. John the Divine Church, about a year ago, I heard another lovely, smart person, Sharon Salzberg, talk about the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness. In fact, she wrote a book called, “LovingKindness.” This is an excerpt:

I am glad there are authors and smart people promoting the practices of kindness and empathy in homes, schools, workplaces. It takes courage. And it affirms my way of being in the world, my way of caring too much. I have to admit that at times, I am afraid to be empathetic because my colleagues may see me as foolish or intellectually light-weight, neither of which I am. Should I turn cynical and critical to earn respect? I don’t know. I am trying to figure this all out.

Until I do, I will practice empathy and I will practice lovingkindness. It may not get me very far, but then, maybe it is about how you get there and not getting there. The journey and not the destination — And all that crap.