How Connected Are We Really?

Tompkins Square Park by  James Jowers available from the George Eastman House on The Commons at Flickr.  No known copyright restrictions.

Tompkins Square Park by James Jowers available from the George Eastman House on The Commons at Flickr. No known copyright restrictions.

What if you died and no one noticed for three years?  That’s what happened to Joyce Carol Vincent.  I have to admit when I first read the basis for the documentary Dreams of a Life I thought the subject would be a drug addict. Maybe someone morbidly obese with no relatives and withdrawn from society so no one noticed with the calls for pizza delivery stopped.  I didn’t image it would be a young vibrant woman who had, had lovers and was admired by many.  I didn’t image it was someone with sisters and her father still living.  I didn’t image… so I watched.  How does someone 28 years old wind up dead for three years and no one notice?

I’m sorry to say there aren’t any pat answers.  No answers as to how she died, was it natural?  was it murder?  No answers as to why no one came in three years to collect bills or rent.  The answer comes in our society where we have any acquaintances but few true connections.  People are transient we move on and assume so do they.  But in the case of Joyce – she wasn’t moving.

I found that in many ways I understood Joyce.  I move a lot and here in Kenosha I have acquaintances but no real friends.  Same could be said of Oak Ridge and Kalamazoo.  I think after a few military moves I learned not to connect to people easily, it’s hard to keep up long distance friendships so best to be choosy – very choosy.  Which leaves me with few regular contacts here where I live and it has been that way for years.

But unlike poor Joyce, I do have those I keep in touch with – my best friend and I haven’t lived in the same county since I was in 8th grade – rarely have we lived in the same state.  My husband and I talk daily when at all possible even if he’s traveling.  So there are connections, there are those who would notice. Yet, would work check? I think so but it might be a bit before they did.  Would my on-line friends check?  No, people cyber-fade it’s a fact of on-line life.  We just figure real life took them in another direction.

By the same token, if I didn’t see a neighbor for sometime would I check on them?  The lady that walks the big rottweiler would I learn her name, check to see why they haven’t been by in some time?  No. It’s not maliciousness or total lack of caring – it’s just we don’t know each other.   I look back in old pictures and how intertwined my parents life growing up was with the neighbors.  Now, I’d be hard pressed to tell you my two side neighbors names much less front and back neighbor or at angles.  People keep to themselves, watch tv, play on computers, chat with cyber-acquaintances half a world away.

There are good and bad things to modern society but the saddest things are when good souls slip away through the cracks…  good ones like Joyce.  We are left wondering what if…  I ponder what if we were disturbed by her story enough to make a change and connect with more people?

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