Social Nutrition – Time for RDAs?

Last night I went to Green Drinks, at a bar a few doors down from our house. The experience was surreal. I was longing for – I have become so used to – conversations that matter to me, that pulse from the heart. And I was in a room full of strangers (plus one acquaintance), there to network, that is, push their projects and products. I guess, at root, there was a mismatch – I sought social nourishment, that was not on offer. So, after a couple hours, I left. And felt – what? Empty, maybe. Relieved, a little. Then, reading Katherine Ozment’s new book, Grace without God, I reached the section about belonging. We’re not meant for a steady diet of interacting with strangers, she says. We’re happier and healthier when we spend lots of time with people we trust.

What if there were an RDA (recommended daily allowance) for that? Like, make sure you spend at least five hours per day in the company of people you’d turn to in crisis, without a second thought – people you know and love. Do those with jobs get this RDA at work? Maybe some do. Since I’m allergic to jobs, I don’t have that option.

Anyway – imagine if we as a culture agreed that there’s such a thing as social malnourishment, leading to social starvation. You know all those hippie-lite food makers who list “love” as an ingredient? Maybe they’re onto something; maybe that’s what most of us are desperately missing. The thing is, we can’t find it in food – especially not in food that’s mass produced; when love does come to us through food, that food is hand-delivered.

Maybe, in the same way that we need a wide variety of foods to feed our bodies, we need a wide variety of (in person) congress with our fellowbeings, to feed our souls. What forms might such congress take? Deep listening, sharing from the heart. Joking, bantering, playing. Working together, with bodies and hands. Collaborating (on art, strategy, visions, plans, designs). Sharing creations (meals, songs, plays). Touching (as friends, lovers, relatives, partners in a healing process). Moving together (dancing, doing yoga).

Looking at this list, I’m seeing that many (if not all) of these actions could be shared by people who don’t know each other well, don’t trust each other. I would say that the knowing and trusting may be intrinsic to the action’s potential to deliver social nourishment. Also, I would say that meeting new people, in a context where you can expect to discuss what matters, offers an additional form of nourishment.

Maybe meeting our RDAs of a range of social nutrients would dramatically reduce our desire to extract – cf. the idea that connection is the opposite of extraction. Also, acknowledging that these RDAs are worth meeting would destroy corporate capitalism. We can’t get the social nourishment we need while feeding the machine.

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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