We drive a hundred miles away to see a friend, but often neglect to greet our neighbours every morning. On the Underground everyone is buried in a newspaper or plugged into an mp3, glancing occasionally at the reflection of someone in the window but quickly turning away before the eyes meet. As I write, a person sitting 5 metres away has just sent me a message via email. What to say, I guess he didn’t want to disturb me! Even smiling or happily greeting a stranger on the street would be considered eccentric behaviour.
For my university degree I wrote a thesis entitled “The Individual in the Information Age”. While researching the perspectives of different social scientists one theme repeatedly came up: ‘the world is becoming smaller and smaller, but people are growing further and further apart.’ That made a lot of sense. Communication technologies mean we have effectively created a global village within which people are more connected than ever before. Yet, the depth of our relationships has been lost. What is the quantity and quality of face-to-face interaction in our modern world?
Relationships produce the highest feelings of happiness and contentment within us. Existence devoid of relationships will never be fulfilling. The Bhagavad-gita explains the perfection of life lies in our ability to establish genuine loving relationships – not only with God, but with all living beings. Great saints would traverse the world simply to meet people, armed with an amazing ability to relate to everyone, regardless of caste, colour or creed. They saw beyond the body and mind, and were able to connect on a spiritual level. Developing such relationships may make the biggest change in our life and our feelings of wellbeing.