Connect Or Die

So, I have an ophthalmology appointment today. After my last appointment, they sent me in for an MRI; and, today, I get the results.

Freaking-the-geek out.

It’s kind of scary to face the unknown. Ha… “kind of”… That might be the understatement of the month.

I’ve been taking it easy this morning. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle and heading off to lecture, I have taken a nice shower, started prepping chili in the slow cooker for dinner, and am currently on the couch under my favorite brown comforter with a puppy snuggled up next to me.

Just a few minutes ago, I started a random TEDx clip from the recommended list on our TV’s YouTube app – ‘Connect or Die: The Surprising Power of Human Relations…’

Video here.

The speaker, Dr. Starla Fitch, started off like this:

“You may think you have 20/20 vision. Or at least you may think you could pass an eye test. But I’m going to challenge you on that today, and say that it’s likely you may not be seeing clearly at all. I’m an opthamologist, and today I want to help you understand how the way you see others may be endangering your life…”

Too timely.

I’m hooked.

Since getting my initial diagnosis almost a year ago, I’ve become super-interested and invested in understanding why my body has acted the way it has. Why do I feel so much stress? What is it about my perception of the world that causes it? What can I do to change it, to help myself heal more than just my physical condition?

I’ve become so much more tuned in to what I feel, which is a new concept. I didn’t really develop the skill of constructively dealing with problems, but – yo – my repression game is FIERCE. But that repression isn’t healthy – holding things in doesn’t help my body, blocks me from joy, and also keeps me blocked off from others.

[Watching the video.]

Dr. Fitch talks about truly seeing each other, using eye conditions as metaphors. And she repeats the importance of making connections, of being present, and how it gives us a chance to show our Best Self by showing up for others. She implores audience members and video watchers alike to make sure we are all seeing each other.

This video hits me on so many levels.

It seems especially relevant in the wake of the issues at University of Missouri. Those students needed some recognition; if the former president would have taken a few minutes to address the issue, to see their hurt, and to imagine how he would feel in their shoes, I feel like this whole dramatic scene could have been cut.

If Christians who get angry about other religions having representation could understand their own historical grip on this country, and then imagine how it would feel to be in the minority… a lot of these Starbucks-related, marriage equality, and abortion issues could involve fewer hurt butts and may have the chance at reasonable resolution. But, instead, we get people shouting about persecution and wars on Christmas!

Are you kidding me?

All that sort of thinking provides is a massive divide between people.


We are all people. We all have histories and lives that shaped us and gave us the frame of reference to make decisions the way we do. We are all given freedom of choice and individual dignity before anything else.

A person’s religion or opinion about a particular issue doesn’t make him or her any more or less valuable or worthy of respect. However, if you ask me, the stance a person takes for or against respecting his or her fellow humans is worthy of appreciation or reproach, respectively.

I think that may be what we’re seeing with all the religious and racial issues lately: people have become hardened or are simply too arrogant, ignorant, or unwilling to recognize that there are different strokes for different folks. And, boy, has there been a huge lack of respect stemming from it.

Life isn’t a “one size fits all” deal.

We have to willing to recognize and respect what others have going on.

It all boils down to empathy, understanding where someone is coming from, taking a moment to walk a mile in their shoes, even if it’s down a path you’ve never been or to a place you may not agree. Empathy requires actually seeing others, not as we are, but as they are.

And I know so many people whose likely responses to that are, “It isn’t my job to cater to others…” or, “People nowadays are too sensitive,” and I tend to agree with the first more than the second, but agree I shall. Being empathetic doesn’t mean being a doormat; but, starting from a place of understanding makes us more likely to have better outcomes. Instead of being dismissive, combative, or closed-minded, empathy gives us the opportunity to be reasonable, collaborator, solution-oriented, and happy. …I know, not all things ppl with that ‘Mercia “I’ll put a boot in your ass” or the Sharia Law mindset are familiar with.

And empathy will kick out the notion that someone is being too sensitive, replacing that negativity with a spirit of inquiry – “Why do they say that?” “Why might they feel this way?” – that ultimately prevents hunger strikes, presidents stepping down, etc.

How to draw the line between “Why might they feel this way?” when it comes to KKK members or transsexual folks or whomever else may lie on the outer bounds of typical thought is a complex issue that I may have to tackle another day!

But I know this: Dr. Fitch needs to write a worldwide prescription. Everyone from the Middle East to Missouri to Starbucks need to open their eyes, look at each other, and make a connection.