“HARDWIRED TO CONNECT”
“Hardwired to Connect” is the title of a report issued by The Commission on Children at Risk. The report argues that the loss of connectedness is devastating America’s youth. The symptoms include major depression, suicide attempts, alcohol abuse, and a wide variety of physical ailments, including asthma, heart disease, irritable bowl syndrome and ulcers—not to mention crime, delinquency, and dropout problem….One in five American youngsters the report says is at serious risk of emotional problems.
The commissioners have determined that children have an inborn need for connections, first with their parents and families, then with larger communities. It is, they say, the weakening of the connections between children and their extended families and communities that is producing a virtual epidemic of emotional and behavioral problems.
They believe that the problems are not in the individual but in the environment and that the environment must be changed. The environment must become authoritative; that is, a particular form of engagement that is both warm and loving and also has expectations and limits. “We think it works best when there are a number of generations involved. You know, parents, aunts and uncles, friends, neighbors—what we call an authoritative community—working together to provide that structure of support, nurturing, affection, and moral and spiritual meaning.”
That is, it takes a village to raise a child and the villages are gone or are going. At the turn of the [twentieth] century ten percent of Americans lived in cities and ninety percent on the land. Today that percentage is reversed. And with the reversal has come the emotional devastation of a large portion of America’s youth. They not only have lost connectedness with family but they have lost connectedness with the environment, an incalculable loss to the children of all species. Many are like animals in a zoo: Caged and fed but divorced from nature, the mother of them, and that entity that created the yearn and necessity for connectedness and family.
Cities are nature’s worst enemy and thus in many ways children’s worst enemy. Cities were built for commerce and trade, for money and profit, and were nurtured always at the expense of the hinterland and its families and children. They are not conducive to connectedness. On the contrary, they are a subverting solvent that unglues families. They foster willfulness and rebellion in youth and a false sense of independence that perniciously obstructs connectedness. And they offer a myriad of enticements, nowhere found on the land, to induce youth to destroy themselves. The culture of the city is anathema to the culture of the land.
On the land, youth were wanted and needed. They had an authoritative structure from day one, if not from parents from nature. They had responsibilities that were real and vital to themselves and their family. They learned work that was needful and physical. And they were not subjected to or distracted by the meretricious seductions of the city. They were surrounded by nature’s loveliness and her imperviousness to solicitation with respect to all her creations.
“The commissioners believe human beings may be hard-wired for transcendent connections as well—for an interest in ultimate meaning. And they are certain that our sense of right and wrong rises from our ‘biologically primed need to connect to others.’”
The churches learned long ago that humans are by nature “hard-wired for transcendent connections.” That is why the churches of all religions are so eager to proselytize the young. They want to connect the children to their respective answers to ultimate meaning as soon as possible to insure the viability of their particular theology. Transcendent connections begin with interest in what is over the horizon, then comes the need for orientation beyond the horizon, and then need for orientation with respect to the meaning of life. Transcendent orientation like all nature’s orientations is designed to give humans an advantage in the struggle of survival.
Nature did not provide humans with claw and tooth but with intelligence and a “need to connect to others” for the purpose of survival of all. She created conscience to induce humans to connect to one another. Right and wrong are defined by how one treats his neighbor. To live a moral life is to live with an eye to the effect of what one does has on others, not only the other next door but the others everywhere, now and hereafter. All faiths and philosophies attest so.
Homo sapiens would not have survived if they had not been hard-wired for connectedness. Nature knew as much and saw to it that she built into the human genes the need to connect and to assist one another. The commandment that one should honor his parents exhibits a knowledge and mandate of nature. And the whole of the Commandments is the culmination of eons of human experience in nature and the distilled knowledge of it. Christ’s summary of moral conduct that one should do unto others as one would wish that others would do unto him is nature’s exhortation to the human species to work together or perish individually.
Capitalism is the culprit. Its genius for creating wealth and all the progeny spawned by wealth, such as cities with gigantic malls bulging with Christmas-tree glitter year around, and the cities’ indifference and disconnectedness, have seduced humans and enticed them to a way of life that is devastating to their offspring and themselves. The divorcement of man from nature and his pillage of her in his pursuit of riches is the ultimate wrong. Christ recognized it when he warned that wealth corrupts the heart and precludes the rich man from entering the Kingdom.