I enjoy finding commonality in my readings, seeing connections between otherwise unrelated topics. A case in point: a recent series of reflections by the Franciscan spiritual writer Richard Rohr and a New York Times article today (by Dan Kois) on swimming in Iceland.
What they have in common, believe it or not, is the very idea of connectedness and the danger of extreme individualism, which isolates one from community.
Rohr's point is that "the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness" on every level; the contemplative mind seeks and enjoys union. This might begin with our relations with animals and nature as well as people as we "grow into deeper connectedness" (love).
"How you do anything is how you do everything," Rohr reminds us. The little things we do carefully, lovingly--the activities that seem trivial or boring--can, in fact, be reminders of something bigger. Our relationship to our surroundings, and the people we encounter daily, offers opportunities for love, in the broadest sense of the word. Think: care of the planet.
Rohr relates connectedness to communion with God as well as with what he calls "our truest selves." He reminds us that, even at the cellular level, we are, like other organisms, part of a greater whole. We do not find wholeness/holiness in isolation but as part of a community of believers; that, at least, is the Christian vision.
On a purely secular level, in Iceland, where the nights are long and the days cold, people in every town and village, according to Kois's article, find solace in outdoor public hot tubs and swimming pools. It is their version of the pub or social center.
Kois says the people of Iceland, despite their remote locale, are among the most contented in the world. Why? Perhaps because they are daily immersed in warm, communal baths, their mostly naked selves bared and shared with others. You have to interact with others in a hot tub.
If clothing and a reserved Nordic manner keep people detached, naked Icelanders find a solution in their heated pools: connectedness. And they seem more than satisfied, craving, in fact, this daily ritual, this reminder that we are all part of one whole.
As someone said, a person alone is in bad company.