It is difficult to say exactly what it is about the autumn that makes many of us go into a kind of social hibernation. It may be the angle of the sun as it skims lower along the horizon which reminds us of time flying past, or the curl of the leaves as they turn brown and rustle off the trees to the ground. With less sunlight, shorter days, and colder temperatures, you would think that, logically, human beings would seek to come closer together to share warmth and solace. Only nowadays we don’t tend to do this: we bundle up and go off to our respective hobbit holes, which may be nice and snug, but they are not very communal.
If you happen to have more than one pet, or have observed how animals on a farm behave, they tend to stick together, particularly when it is cold and dark, for warmth and companionship. Yet for all the time we humans spend together outdoors in summer, as soon as the season turns we begin retreating indoors and into ourselves. Were it not for holidays, many of us would have little in the way of non-work-related interaction at all: and some of us will not have any even then.
It has long been said that one reason the Scandinavians were such early pioneers in mobile phone technology was because they were so isolated from one another during the long winters that ravage their region. We can all associate in our minds the concept of Scandinavian people wanting to be by themselves, even in harsh weather. Yet as it turns out this is not really much good for the descendants of the vikings, or indeed for any of us.
The world of cinema is a good way to see this. The legendary Swedish-American film star Greta Garbo did not actually want to be alone, as it turned out, she wanted to be left alone – but in her case, the reputation established about her ended up isolating her, making a Garbo sighting in New York something like seeing a fluke of nature rather than a human being. In the wonderful Danish film “Babette’s Feast”, we see how the villagers’ cottages are all huddled together for practical protection, but they are generally such reserved and quiet people that they make no connection with one another outside of church, until the charity of a French cook brings them all, at least for an evening, together into warmth and love, despite the cold. And in the Norwegian film “Kitchen Stories”, men in an isolated farming community in Norway are so desperate for basic human affection and companionship, that for much of the film they cannot even bring themselves to say so.
Autumn and winter holidays are all very well, but they are one day affairs, and the nights are now going to be long and cold for quite a few months up here in the Northern Hemisphere. Perhaps as this season proceeds you will consider ways that you can reach out to others in unexpected ways, by offering to drop by or asking them to come over, or even just picking up that mobile device as intended, to make the darker hours pass more easily. Those with families can bring those without into their circle, for example, or three or four individuals can make an effort of getting those individuals together to share some time in both talking and listening.
In serving others in this way, not only will you be doing good for someone else, in making the dark time of year seem a bit less dark, but you may also be doing yourself a very good service in turn.