“Every man and woman on this planet only wants to be loved. This is all they want, whether or not they will admit it.” -Paul Selig
We all crave intimacy. It’s built in to us. We long to be seen, loved, and accepted for who we are. This longing for authentic connection is inescapable, and has in recent years given rise to social media, which in a relatively short period of time (10 years or so as of this writing) has largely reconfigured the ways in which people connect all around the globe. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and various other social media platforms have opened up a whole new landscape in which social interactions may take place, and for many people, have become the preferred method of communication. With new and faster ways to connect, and with more people to connect to, we should feel less lonely, right? We should feel more satisfied, and closer to each other than ever, shouldn’t we? And yet, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Something crucial must be missing.
As we have been dazzled by the convenience and the immediacy our newfound technology, it seems we haven’t paused to consider what we might be trading off in the process. While people are better able to connect and organize in radical and efficient new ways (such as in the Arab spring in Egypt of 2011, which began on Twitter, and the Women’s March in Washington DC after the 2016 election), it seems to be much less effective as a vehicle for genuine interpersonal connection. We spend less time talking to real people and more time interacting with their digital avatars. We are looking less into each other’s eyes and more into our glowing screens. Our attempts at intimacy increasingly take the form of likes and follows and comments which bring us a very transient sense of connection, but are superficial at best, and do little to scratch that deep itch which is yearning for something more real. Only a real finger can scratch it, not a Scratch App, or whatever this is.
Through our well-intentioned but short-sighted embrace of social media, we end up losing nuance, context, body language, tone, emotion, and other subtleties of human expression that are exchanged in every encounter. However great our technology becomes, it will never replace real and genuine eye contact, touching, hugging, cuddling, smelling, sex, and other forms of intimacy. Ultimately, we need to be with people, IRL ;), to look into their eyes and feel their energy, smell their pheromones, absorb their biome, and experience the totality of their being. We need to soak each other in in a way that simply cannot be experienced through a technological middleman. No matter how hard we try, we cannot reduce the fullness of humanity into raw data and information, and we cannot fully satisfy our need for intimacy in a digital landscape. Who we are, and our needs and desires to be together, are much more dynamic than that.
So where does this desire to connect come from in the first place? Why isn’t it enough to live life online? Why are we so drawn to actually be together? It’s quite simple. At a deep level, beyond the many different forms and personalities we have, we actually all love each other, in a deep and intimate way, and this desire to be together is the heart’s memory of the unity we shared before we left the Tao, or perhaps you could say before the Big Bang, before “the many” came into being. Ultimately, it’s a desire to be reunited. At the deepest level, we miss each other.
“It is not surprising that we keep looking for love, because we are all born of love. We come out of love. All of us are nothing but vibrations of love. We are sustained by love, and in the end we merge back into love… This world is nothing but a school of love; our relationships with our husband or wife, with our children and parents, with our friends and relatives are the university in which we are meant to learn what love and devotion truly are.” -Swami Muktananda
We love each other is because love is our true nature. We are made of Love itself. Of course, to look at the world, you may immediately refute this claim, as it certainly does not appear that we are all made of love, desiring to love each other, but that is only because the vast majority of the time we are not operating from our true (loving) selves, but are instead dominated by our ego or personality-selves. This is the part of us that operates in a state perceived separation, forgetfulness, and hence fear, about who we really are. A Course in Miracles says, “the ego is the mind’s belief that it is completely on its own.” Of course it is harder to truly love and connect with others when this is how we identify- when we think we are disconnected, in competition, or are otherwise taking a defensive posture in the world. Our need for intimacy is like a homing beacon, calling us to move beyond that, to lay down our well-crafted defense mechanisms, beyond the limitations of our self-imposed isolation, and beyond the fear that we are all alone in a cold and meaningless universe. It is an invitation into something much greater.
We see this play out time and again in nearly every romantic relationship, especially at the outset. I have certainly experienced it a number of times in my own life. Every insecurity, fear, and vulnerability gets brought up when we first become close to someone. As we open up, the parts of us that are afraid to open up make themselves known, sometimes in subtle, quiet, self-sabotaging ways, and other times in very obvious, loud, and aggressive ways, but ultimately this is all so that we may address it, work through it, heal, release, and resolve it - if we are courageous enough, and willing to do so. This is one of the key, sacred functions of human relationships. They have the great potential to be used as a vehicle to help us awaken, to process our “uncooked parts”, and to help us open our hearts.
Ram Dass says, “Eventually you will be in love with the whole universe.” If love is our true nature, than he’s right, we’ll have no choice. We can fight it as long as we want, but eventually we will grow sick and tired of all the suffering we’re creating for ourselves, and we will let it all go. A Course in Miracles also says, “The ego depends solely on your willingness to tolerate it.” Eventually, we will no longer tolerate it, and we will yield to our higher natures, open our hearts, and when we do, we will experience true intimacy of an order and magnitude far greater than we can imagine from the limited and faulty perspective of the ego.
What we all truly desire with each other is a sort of “I” contact - that is, contact with the being behind the ego, the I Am presence, the infinite and eternal loving awareness that exists within each of us. Conveniently enough, this contact is most readily accessed through the eyes, through literal eye contact, which we all know are the “windows to the soul”. So our desire to be intimate with each other, to love each other, and to be together, is really a desire to know the self, to know who we are in truth, and to love ourselves completely. It is a desire for reunification. As we make real connections with others, we give them the gift, the possibility, of knowing themselves in truth, as we come to know ourselves in truth. It’s a win-win.