After growing up on a healthy dose of Neighbours, watching the residents of Ramsay Street make friends (and enemies) with one another, it was a little shocking to come to the realisation that I have no idea who my neighbours are. Sure, I say hi when I see them, and extend the usual pleasantries, but if I had to tell an ambulance officer their name in an emergency, I’d be totally screwed.
Of course, this isn’t a new thing. I’ve been living in my apartment building for over a year, but since I started reading The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, the long-awaited sequel to, erm, The Art of Happiness, I hadn’t really given it a second thought. I thought it was normal. Right? Well, not really.
In our modern Western world, the idea of ignoring your neighbour isn’t a foreign thing. Ask anyone in, say, Cambodia and, yes, they will appear totally shell shocked but in our urban landscape, this is quite common Happies. We’re all so busy thinking and caring about ourselves, it’s become somewhat strange to introduce yourself to the person residing next door to you. In fact, I think that if I knocked on my neighbour’s door now, after all this time, and gave her cookies and introduced myself, she’d think I’d gone nuts.
And perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps we’re all so far removed from the idea of ‘community’ that we’ve successfully isolated ourselves beyond redemption. Now, that’s a shitty idea, isn’t it? Yep, sure is.
The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World touches on this issue of not being a part of a community. It also talks about how our ability to ignore our neighbour (and other forms of isolation) are part of the reason we have such high levels of depression in Western cultures.
We’re pack animals us humans, we NEED to belong to something, and while we have our family (a crucial element in our happiness levels) we also need to connect to people in other ways, too. Like our neighbours, and our local cycling group, or eating club… whatever your hobby is, make it something that connects you with others. The result? A far happier, more connected you. So, perhaps I should bake those cookies after all.
Tell me Happies…
Do you know your neighbours by name?
What do you do to connect to people? Does it make you feel happier?
Have you read The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World?