I have relationships on the brain today. Whether we’re talking about real or fabricated people and their relationships, the important part to think about concerns why those people are in a relationship. What’s the connection? The drive? The emotion? The reason I ask as a writer, and a human being, is because I think the relationships people cultivate say a lot about them.
I have to admit, I do not excel at relationships. When I’m good at being with people and connecting, I’m really good. When I’m feeling disconnected, I’m abysmal. It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m not interested in what’s going on in people’s lives, it’s more that I get caught up in myself. I build a bubble and forget there are ever-changing, living creatures beyond my bubble. This causes a disconnect; I forget the relationships I have do not exist in a vacuum. What I do, or do not do, affects them. At least I’m learning.
In any case, I went the nerdy route and decided to look up “relationship;” this is my favourite definition: “The way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.”* The behave part caught my eye because relationships require specific, nuanced behaviour depending on the ties between two people.
My focus on relationships has a lot to do with something else that’s been on my mind lately: tribes, mostly concerning the human condition. I’ve said before that I feel like we are living in very bizarre times. It’s like humans have forgotten how to be humane when it comes to one another. So much about how we interact has changed, and not for the better in a lot of ways. I’m not blaming technology, by the way, there seems to be a vast disconnect in general—as for the root of that, I would have to do serious research.
I’ve come to the consensus that a lot of our current problems as a society involve the fact that we have lost sight of the value of community. At our core, humans are simply hairless apes who are adept at walking on two feet. What makes us special is our ability to think about the act of thinking. Essentially, that’s it. What’s more, what do the majority of apes and primates have? Troupes. Connection. Familial cooperation. Humans seem to believe they’ve evolved beyond those needs. They haven’t.
I find it fascinating that in North America, primarily the United States and Canada, there is this drive for people to have enormous houses on vast plots of land with no people to fill them. In many countries around the globe it is common for three generations of families to live together. The grandparents support the kids by minding the grandchildren, the kids support the grandparents by ensuring they’re not alone, and the grandchildren get to be watched by people that matter to them. Obviously, I am oversimplifying there, but you get my point: there is mutual support for each generation.
Even in the general sense of community I feel like we’ve lost our way. The old adage goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but we’ve lost the village. Now we don’t want to get involved with our neighbours or help one another. This is sad because as a species we are designed to have cooperative ties. We need them.
Don’t get me wrong, just because I can see these faults and issues does not make me the perfect, well-connected human I’d like to be. I have a long way to go toward creating better ties with other people.
The beautiful thing about writing a story is that I get to look at my main character and figure out who she has relationships with, how they’re defined, how she relates with people, and how she treats others. I get total control. I can make all the decisions in an effort to show my readers what kind of person she is in correlation to what kind of person she may think she is.
Coming back to my main point, it doesn’t matter if people are real or fictitious, how they relate to one another ebbs and flows, evolves, shatters, and solidifies. Why we work on relationships is kind of at the core of character. How people treat others says a lot about who they are. How they’re willing to fix or sever relationships does the same. The big question is why. Why be in a relationship with another person—what’s the point? It’s great exploring this in writing, and reading, and I guess reality, too.