In David Brooks’ recent book, How to Know a Person, he shares a concern that there is a creeping dehumanization happening in society. As humans, we all want to connect with others. He notes that “The real act of, say, building a friendship or creating a community involves performing a series of small, concrete social actions well,” and the list of these actions, among others, includes being a good listener, knowing how to sit with someone who is suffering, and knowing how to see things from another’s point of view. “Ultimately, being able to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen—to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard, and understood.”
None of us get a lot of training on these social actions and therefore, we might not be connecting as deeply as we can or having the empathy and compassion on a consistent basis that we’d like to have. In a conversation that I had this week with a group of clients, we were talking about this topic, and one person noted that the actions about which Brooks talks seem “so obvious: ask questions, pay attention, listen deeply." However, with all the distractions around us, these seemingly simple actions are sometimes difficult to employ.
He makes the point that creating these deep connections with others not only makes you a better person and can help bridge the massive divides in our society, but may also increase your well-being. In May 2023, the Surgeon General released an advisory statement calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and the lack of connection in our country. David Brooks writes the antidote to this crisis in his book.
Ask questions. Pay attention. Listen deeply.
Take care and stay safe.
True North by Andrew J. Graff
From the author of Raft of Stars comes a heartfelt novel of marriage and whitewater rafting, following one couple as they navigate the changing currents of family, community, and the river itself.
As the summer of 1993 begins, Sam and Swami Brecht roll into town with a twenty-six-foot Winnebago camper van, their three young kids, and the deed to Woodchuck Rafting Company. Sam and Swami met as young, adventurous river guides but, a decade later, find themselves weighed down by money worries and the demands of adulthood. The town of Thunderwater, in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, could be the fresh start their marriage needs. But Woodchuck, once the property of Sam’s eccentric uncle, has seen better days and will need a serious overhaul if it is going to stand a chance at survival.
Soon Sam and Swami learn they are not the only ones looking for change and profit on the river. A competing rafting outfit, clashing raft guides, stubborn townsfolk, and an exploratory mining company begin to threaten their tenuous livelihood. Then nature intervenes, in the form of historic floods throughout the Midwest. Amid tumultuous currents both on and off the river, Sam and Swami struggle to maintain the new life they’ve built. Before the summer draws to a close, the Brechts must learn to face the floodwaters together in order to create a sustainable future for their family, the town, and the pristine river from which it all flows.