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Straight Talk – Where Your Heart Is

Straight Talk – Where Your Heart Is

‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’

If you were on a desert island and could only take a few items with you, what would you choose?  What would be most important; what would your ‘treasure’ be?

I’ve been asked that question a few times in my life, and once I was even asked it during a job interview. I’m no Bear Grylls but I got the job, after all, who hasn’t watched a plethora of The Island and imagined themselves surviving on Yuca root for a few weeks? 

When I think about being stranded, Wilson comes to mind; not that I would choose to have a volleyball as a companion on my desert island.  But the fact that Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) draws a face on ‘him’ (the volleyball) in the movie, Cast Away, makes me realise how lonely it must have been.  He missed being with other human beings.

In my experience, we only really learn what is truly important to us when life’s clutter has been cleared away; when we are ‘stripped’ down to the basics. When we get ‘stranded’ on our ‘desert island’. 

The things that we normally prioritise tend to sink into insignificance at times like this.   

It isn’t a comfortable experience and certainly not one that I would go through voluntarily, but I suspect that most humans go through these pruning times during their lives.

One such occasion was being told by my gynaecologist that my check-up had not come back clear and I that needed to wait for three months to have a follow up ‘inspection’.  In those three months, my mind travelled to some pretty dark places. My children were little, and I desperately wanted to see them grow up. 

At the time, I couldn’t have cared two hoots for material things; money, fancy clothes, my car or house. I wanted to gaze into the eyes of my children, my chubby little two-year-old and his pretty big sister; feel their breath on my cheek and see them grow up.  They were what counted. As tough as the situation was to go through, it certainly put things into perspective. My ducks not only fell into line, but they also quacked happily, once a second lot of results came back clear.

man sea horizon phone heart

Human beings have been designed to need connection with other human beings.  Now, on a hot day, standing in a queue at the bank to wait for change, while the lady in front tells her life story to the teller, you may beg to differ.  Or, when you are looking for a parking space along the esplanade so that you can go for a walk along the shore. Admittedly, those are the times that we may wish to get away from it all; to be at Point Nemo, the most isolated place in the world.  

Point Nemo is located, literally, in the middle of nowhere, or to be more specific, in the middle of the Southern Pacific.  Known as the ‘oceanic pole of inaccessibility’ and nicknamed Point Nemo, after author Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, it is located over 1600km away from the nearest bit of land.   There isn’t much in the way of marine life there either; the water contains very few nutrients because it sits within the South Pacific Gyre (a system of rotating currents). Effectively, it is a watery desert, with the ocean floor a staggering 13000ft below, and did I mention that it’s a graveyard?  A spaceship graveyard, to be exact, as the isolated area is used by space agencies for the crash re-entry of old satellites, rockets and space stations. 

I must be honest; the place sounds eerie to me, an extreme example of being alone, and a place which thankfully, most of us won’t need to visit.  But as humans, are we isolating ourselves by pursuing material things or career progression over our relationships and taking ourselves to ‘Point Nemo’?     

Dan Roberts, a psychotherapist, says that ‘Humans are born wired for connection’ in his article, Why Humans Need Connection, published on thriveglobal.com. He goes so far as to say that it is as strong a need as food, water and warmth and that a loving, secure relationship is a matter of life and death for babies, as we are born completely helpless.

There is a trend in the world, however, for people to increasingly sacrifice their relationships for the pursuit of wealth. 

Research shows that valuing material goods over relationships goes against our nature according to writer Emily Esfahani Smith – theatlantic.com.  Human beings have a basic need to belong to a group and form relationships. For a long time, scientists have debated why a human brain is the largest in relation to our body size.  Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, has done extensive research and found that:

‘the strongest predictor of a species’ brain size—specifically, the size of its neocortex, the outermost layer—is the size of its social group’.

Basically, humans have bigger brains to socialise, to be in community, or be part of a family.

Further research shows that when our brain is in downtime and not actively working on something, its configuration is the same as when it’s being used for social thinking.  It seems the brain uses its spare moments to think about other people and what makes them tick. Who knew?

On the whole, in today’s world, we spend less time socialising, have smaller families, invite fewer people into our homes and more time chasing the dream.  The dream of being rich. A survey carried out in the 60s on college students showed that starting a family and helping others was considered most important. Just twenty years later, a similar survey showed different results; the students prioritised making money.

According to Matthew Lieberman, a social psychologist,

‘The more individuals endorse materialism as a positive life value, the less happy they are with their lives.’ 

His book, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, suggests that to facilitate learning and engagement in schools and businesses, social interaction should be encouraged.  Essentially, this would improve learning and make the workplace more productive, as well as improve our physical and mental well-being. 

I’ve established over the years that my ‘treasure’ is my family, and perhaps that is true for most of us. As handy as having a full wallet and no money worries is (that’s a thing?), it does take more than financial stability and material possessions to make us happy. 

So, back to my desert island, which would hopefully not be the nearest location to Point Nemo.  If I could only take a few ‘items’, without a doubt, I would take the people who are close to me.  We could worry about what we would eat, drink or wear, and how we could go about surviving, together. 

Written by Stella Nicholls
Images sourced via Unsplash

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