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by David Truman

Apart from relationship -- CLOSE and DEEP relationship -- life is not being itself. Relationship is the context, the reality of life. Life IS in relationship.
How DEEPLY we choose to enter relationship is, of course, up to us. We can fight against it, or we can participate in it. But the choice to deny our needs for relationship -- the choice which leads to the usual life of self-separateness -- is a nightmarish illusion about the reality of being. It is life-denying, love-rejecting, and certainly unloving. And most of all, it is unfulfilling, from cradle to grave.
And if we choose to relate deeply, how MANY relationships we enter into is also up to us. But where the heart and soul are concerned, the tribal solution to life -- the extended family of like-minded spirits -- is the only practical model that fits the soul of humanity. Love, universal love, is what we're here for. So, no matter what anyone says, and no matter what anyone limits themselves to due to fear, ONE close and deep relationship is NOT enough. We need MORE than that -- all of us do.
Think about it: Everyone loves many people. And true, most people fear a lot of people. In fact, many people fear nearly everyone. Such fear may justify social limitations, but can never make them satisfactory to the human heart. Consider the conventional models of living which have evolved in response to that fear: existing in total self-isolation, or in biological huddles in the contexts of exclusive coupledom or nuclear family. All of those models are, in reality, paranoid, inadequate, and unfulfilling. Social dysfunction and fear aside, the fundamental human desire is for a much larger, deeper, and ever-accessible love.
Please note, we are NOT talking about sex here -- we are talking about LOVE. This call for expanded love-relating has nothing whatsoever to do with the expansion of sexual alliances. Rather, it is simply an acknowledgement of innate emotional and spiritual needs on the social level. It is simply TRUE of each and every one of us that we love MANY people. It is simply true that we NEED more than a mate, more than a biological family -- more than television, even! Every one of us wishes to be in much closer association with a NUMBER of people -- and to share love deeply and sincerely not JUST with one person, or two people, but MORE people.
Family is not enough
Mates tend to lock one another up and throw away the key, limiting social relating with others severely. Family units tend to tie the parties down with a tangled web of busy-ness and obligation that conveniently leaves no time and energy for real outreach. The family huddle -- and muddle! It is CRUCIAL, then, that human beings expand into units of love and survival that comprise a larger number of people. Only then can our true nature -- the scope and yearning of the love we actually FEEL -- be expressed and confessed and fulfilled in a natural manner.
Biological reproduction is a wonderful and necessary thing. But it is by no means all that people need. One look into the face of the average overworked and underloved parent should be enough to drive that point home. People love to say that "your family are the only people who will ever unconditionally love you and commit to you." That is fear talk, and social dysfunction talk. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the real possibilities of brotherly and sisterly love -- except to deny those possibilities flatly.
Most important to any human being is the possibility of being loved freely. Any love we can take for granted leaves us wondering how lovable we really are. By definition, the captive audience of blood relations can NEVER answer that question. It is important, emotionally, that the friends you have are volunteers -- not just captives of the biological imperative. In truth, only when a person is with you FREELY do you feel truly loved.
The fact is, the usual patterns of relating represent a starvation diet, emotionally and spiritually. A profound sense of unfulfillment, even uselessness, inevitably results. It is not just about selfishness -- that we want to get the love of many people, or of people who love us without being obliged. It is also that we want to GIVE to many people.
"I gave at the office" is not enough
Society's answer to this problem is superficial and inadequate: "Get a nice career, and you will feel useful. You can serve people in many satisfying ways: You can be a social worker, a waitress, a doctor, a nurse, a musician, a car mechanic. There are so many helpful roles you can play in your work life." Blah, blah, blah. TOP
It doesn't work that way. Not well enough, anyhow. In their hearts and souls, virtually all career helpers are both glad to be helping people, and sad -- frustrated, even -- that they are only helping so much, only giving a little, only entering into relationship superficially with those they serve. Almost all service workers, at any level and in any calling, feel this sense of emptiness. It takes a lot of compensatory self-talk, on the part of those few people who SAY they are richly fulfilled in their career, to talk themselves into that view. It is hollow.
In the end, the REAL desire to interact with other human beings in deep and nurturing ways is nowhere NEAR fulfilled in employment. The promise of fulfillment there doesn't pan out. And the reason it doesn't is the one to which we have already pointed: People want to serve and relate to others in major ways, not just minor ones -- as they almost always are constrained to do when giving in the context of employment. The interaction is not deep enough, not long-lasting enough, not profound enough, and not FREE enough.
What we really want, and really NEED -- is to exchange real and substantial love with a number of people. And we need to be profoundly and mutually engaged, not just for a few minutes or hours here and there, but on an ongoing basis, with true friends. Man is a social animal, that's part of it. But more to the point, man is a SPIRITUAL being, and spiritual beings are deeply inclined toward a kind of love that universal, rather than extremely limited.
We are not satisfied, emotionally or spiritually, until and unless we are involved in deep love exchanges with appreciably more people than we conventionally DARE to be involved with. The love that we all feel within ourselves IS a universal love -- one that embraces, potentially, all the people we meet, and indeed the whole world.
Five to twenty is enough
Of course, practically speaking, we have real constraints of time and energy. Therefore, though we might LIKE to do so, we cannot maintain high affinity and deep communication with a very large number of people. Realistically, we can enjoy love relationships that are sufficiently deep and regular to be soul-satisfying with only a small number of people. Maybe five people. Maybe ten. In any case, the outer limit of real quality intimacies that can be satisfactorily maintained is probably less than twenty.
What we really need to do, to meet human needs, is to live in extended families of five to twenty people. This is the only context that can possibly meet the real emotional-spiritual needs of ordinary human beings. Granted, it takes a good deal of social skill to make such a situation WORKABLE. Excessive ego or neurosis can certainly ruin any social alliance, large or small. That goes without saying. But, with practice, those skills can be gained. We certainly have the motivation to do so.

by David Truman

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