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Help for the Disconnected  

Identity is related to a person’s place (or relationships) in society.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on August 29, 2005, much of the city’s population was hastily evacuated. As the residents fled, most house pets were left behind. In the wake of the devastations, thousands of dogs and cats roamed city neighborhoods. Eventually, an animal rescue effort was organized. The pets were put in wire cages until their former owners could be located. That effort was only partially successful. Many pets were shipped out of state and placed in homes elsewhere.

Some New Orleans residents, returning to the city, tried to find their former pets. Sometimes, they were able to trace the pet to placement in another home. When they asked for the pet back, the new owners often refused the request. They had formed an attachment to the animal by now and felt they had as good a claim to keeping their new pet as the former owner did.

I am haunted by the image of a New Orleans resident forced to part with his pet by a natural catastrophe. Trying to pick up the pieces of his former life in a now depopulated neighborhood, this person would feel a great comfort in being reunited with the pet. Even though thousands of animals remain in cages awaiting adoption, he is looking for a particular animal - the one with whom he formerly shared a life. He wants to find this animal, and no other. Being reunited with the pet means recreating a lost community. It means starting to regain one’s place in the world.

I think of the petless New Orleans resident as a symbol of many people who feel disconnected from the rest of society. The found pet would be a symbol of reconnection. The worst case of disconnected persons would be orphaned children or those who have been abandoned by their parents. One also thinks of widows or widowers in nursing homes, seldom if ever visited by relatives. However, the disconnected one can be anyone who feels lost or by himself (herself). He has no place in this world that he can call his own.

When a person owns a house, he has a certain place in the community. When he is married and has children, or is employed with a particular organization or firm, or belongs to a welcoming church, or has become associated with persons of similar interest, that sense becomes stronger. But no one is generic. We each have our unique identities needing to be fulfilled. Therefore, the condition of being connected or disconnected from the larger world is a matter of degree.

I am thinking of the spiritually homeless ones among us who want a better life. Yes, there are social-service agencies catering to certain needs. Yes, there is the government claiming to represent its citizens. However, people have learned not to take benevolent-appearing institutions at face value. The organizations that can afford to advertise on television have gotten their money in some way. Often their appeals serve institutional agendas. We can’t trust these “cookie-cutter” people to do right by us. For good reason, public confidence in the government is low.

So I am thinking that there needs to be a way that a person in need of community can find one or build his own. It starts with personal identity. Each person decides who he or she is and what kind of support is needed from society. There should then be a structure of knowledge to translate the sense of identity within each person into a life shared with others. If a group of people can share this purpose, then each person’s quest becomes public. A community is built from common experiences of this sort.

Perhaps the on-line college which I call “Quintepoch University” can create such a structure, both the knowledge and the community arising from it. In time, I would hope that it would grow to the point that anyone needing help in finding a place in society, regardless of his physical location, would have somewhere to go. For the desire to be personally acknowledged and to acknowledge others is universal. Human beings (as well as dogs and cats) need that bond with a sympathetic other. Even in our loneliness, we’re in the boat together. We reach out by first revealing ourselves.


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