Thursday, March 20, 2014

Barbara Kingsolver talk speaks to me

This is one of the most timely and thought provoking pieces I've read in a long time. Barbara Kingsolver, author, gives a talk to a group of college graduates about what they can expect in the future and what we have left them to face. The theme is how to be hopeful.

Be prepared to take a few minutes to read it. It is well worth your time, especially if you have children or grandchildren. She capsules in this speech our loss of community in our own country, our values of money above all else, including the very earth that sustains us. I am going to read this often to remind me of how I can be a better steward of the earth and our people. 

I see how we are becoming more isolated as individuals. I have to fight that every day. Being a writer, I could stay inside like Emily Dickinson, and pour out my thoughts on paper or on my computer. I can send e-mail and post on Facebook. But after a few days of this, I get depressed. I need people in my life. I need face to face conversation that has meaning. 

I lost a dear friend who isolated herself from everyone who knew her and loved her. Her depression became a sinkhole that swallowed her up. Finally no one could reach her. She took her own life leaving all of us feeling helpless and guilty because we couldn't stop thinking we might have done more. 

Kingsolver points out that countries where families gather and make music, dance and tell stories, as once we did in our country, are the happiest and, I'm sure, the healthiest. I came from such a family and those were the nurturing days -- when we sat on the porch in the evenings, one brother played the guitar, my father told family stories. Later, when I was older, I remember holiday parties when relatives came, and we turned the dining room into a dance hall. Always there was music. I still remember some of the songs I heard when I was a child, songs from the war years, love songs and funny songs that we as a family, sang, hummed or whistled. 

In today's American family the children all have their own separate rooms, their own television sets, their own computers, and they play their music alone, often wearing earphones that really isolate them from their parents and siblings. Having all this isolation is a status symbol. Poor people seldom have that much space. Parents struggle to earn enough money to give the kids this kind of isolation, not realizing what they are doing.

Unlike my days in college when we gathered in dorm rooms and laughed and danced, ate and sometimes cried together, today's college students can't imagine sharing a room with anyone else, especially a stranger. Status is to have your own apartment or share a place with a wealthy friend. 

How much they miss. Part of the college experience is to learn about others, learn to accept those who are different from us, learn compassion for those who need it, and learn to reach out to help others who are in trouble. 

Barbara Kingsolver gives a great speech to these kids at Duke. I wish it could be read and discussed throughout high schools and colleges of this country.

What do you think about community in today's world? What do you do to encourage community in your family and your neighborhood?


DJan said...

I will investigate this talk, but I know Barbara through her writings, and I know what it will say before I've even read it. You are right, she is right: community is being lost in this country, and it's the only salvation for many young people. One thing I love about blogging is how I am connected to people like you whom I will never meet in person, but I know you, your heart, your loves and your life. We need to make a leap into another phase of consciousness, and I hope it happens soon. Sending you love and light, Glenda. YOU speak to ME.

Glenda Beall said...

Like you, DJan, I love the connection we make through blogging. I am amazed how many friends I've made that I will never meet in person, but have come to know them so well, including you. I read that some people don't want to be bothered with even a thank you note by email or a text. Reading that short note infringes on their time. They say a thank you isn't necessary.
I know some people hate the telephone and don't want to answer it - ever. They want only a text, no human voice, to interrupt their busy lives. I know busy and I've been covered up with "busy" but I still like the sound of the voices of my loved ones and my friends.
When all is said and done, the people in our lives are what matter the most. I look forward to reading your blog every week and appreciate so much your comments here.