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Humans are tuned for relationship…Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and with our own human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation, given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced landscape.  

We still need that which is other than ourselves and our creations…Without the oxygenating breath of the forests, without the clutch of gravity and the tumbled magic of river rapids, we have no distance from our technologies… 

We need to know the textures, the rhythms and tastes of the bodily world… 

—David Abram 

As the first three months of the year have quite literally whirled by, I’ve found myself contemplating the idea of connection, which deeply informs my work around cultivating sense of place and assisting communities and organizations in being rooted and vibrant.  Much like a few months flying by, the ways in which we “connect” now have changed so rapidly that we haven’t actually taken the opportunity to explore how we’ve changed as a result. Like the old George Carlin bit about how we move from a box where we live to a box where we work in a box and then return home to watch a box, we’re increasingly defined these days by the boxes we may be sitting in front of now, or which we talk through. And how can we truly “think outside the box” if we are always in one? 

When we hear the term “connection”, we may have many associations—a popular one being the Internet. E-mail has been heralded as a revolution in communication and though we still don’t know the possibilities of “distance learning” or “on-line communities”, are we asking questions about what learning and communication we miss through such advances?  And, if we are truly “tuned for relationship” and many of our relationships are increasingly mediated by technologies we have created, where do we find the place where we connect with what is real—face-to-face interaction, the earth beneath our feet, open spaces?  

I have been observing the blurry line between biology and technology for some time and the need that we have as humans, and which often goes unmet, to re-connect. To step away from the computer and get outside, to share a meal with friends, to take a walk in the woods or on the beach. It is essential to our nature, as Carl Jung has observed: “Everyone needs a piece of garden, no matter how small, to keep them in touch with the earth and therefore, with something deeper in themselves.” 

What are the gardens we cultivate—actual or metaphorical—away from the hard world of metal, circuitry and concrete? In building community and in acknowledging our humanity, this is a critical piece of the recipe for keeping ourselves whole, grounded and connected.

March 2006