Belfast Telegraph

Whether we like it or not our lives are actually intertwined

By Nuala McKeever

Still in Edinburgh. And I know this festival is an international one and the crowds I'm seeing every day do not represent the actual citizens of the metropolis, but still, the idea that any country or anyone could be "independent" is rather ridiculous when you think about it.

I know what independence means, politically. And I'd support Scotland's bid to cut free from their "forced marriage" with England, but ultimately, there is no such thing as independence.

Interdependence is where we're at. All of us. Every day when I step out the door of my flat here and enter the stream of humanity in the city centre, I am struck anew by this seeming contradiction – I feel alone among all these "strangers" who pass by talking on phones, or to each other, or to other strangers, trying to entice them in to see a show.

And yet, I depend so entirely on others for everything in my life, I am not remotely alone, really.

The food I eat, the clothes I walk around in, the music I pipe into my ears, the contact lenses that show me everything with clarity, the water I drink, the shows I see, the people I look at, smile at, scowl at for stopping unannounced in the middle of the footpath and causing a 10-person pile-up – the idea that any one person is on their own is patently not the case.

And yet, feeling so alone, so independent of anyone and anything, so cut-off and separate and singular and unreachable, that is the curse of this interdependent-denying age we live in.

Big business constantly wants to sell us the notion that we are individual, better, more, than everyone else. Or, rather, that we would be if we buy their product. And, weirdly, we tend to buy into that idea, while somehow managing to ignore the fact that all around us, millions of other people are simultaneously following the same promise.

Altogether special. A crowd of individuals all having the same unique experience. Everyone's a one-off in the same way as everyone else.

The thing we play down is our connection. We buy smaller and smaller gadgets in order to connect to more and more people and all it does is underline how apart we all feel. We behave like sheep while missing the comfort of real closeness. We're in the crowd, but not of it.

I know that no one can ever really walk another person's "journey". Robin Williams had loving family and friends and support and yet he faced his death alone.

I can't ever really feel what you're feeling and vice versa. But I can stop and take the time to listen to how what you're feeling feels, to you.

For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, we are in a union with each other whether we like it or not. And it works so much better when we take time to see things from someone else's point of view.

It's hard. Mostly we're encouraged to be self-centred, to think only of our own ego. But that way we miss out on the things that we can only discover when we commit to being committed to each other.

The rewards are there. Far from tying us down, commitment is the doorway to freedom. Commitment, not attachment. It's different.

To let ourselves and others be as we are, not trying to fix, or solve, or improve. To say, "Yes" and "I do" to each other.

To know we're not alone. To interdepend and be glad.

Success shines in different ways

A-Level results time again and lots of talk about success. Success – what is it?

Sometimes it's four A* exam results. Sometimes it's a standing ovation from a packed theatre.

Sometimes it's getting out of bed in the morning and getting washed.

I met a young woman here who's doing her own show, from America, averaging five people in the audience and struggling to be optimistic about herself after a poor, two-star review.

She sees only the failure. I see a determined, bright star of a 26-year-old.

Being where you are – that's success. No matter where that is.

I'm bugged by new language

Isis. That used to be the name of a goddess, or, if you're an oul' hippy-wannabe like me, a great song by Bob Dylan. Now it's the name of an horrendous group of extremists in Iraq.

Language just keeps morphing. Never stays still and can't be stopped. Even by grammar nazis like me.

Who'd ever heard the word "redacted" a few years ago? Now it's used on TV, in film and today I read it in a report about fracking.

Some newish words sound lovely, even though they're not. Ebola anyone?

It ought to be a stunning flower, or a sweet dessert.

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