ONLY Connect is a TV gameshow that you might have heard of, hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell.But did you know that the title comes from a book, Howard’s End?
Both that book, which was written in 1910, and the film adaptation talk about divisions in society before the First World War.
So it’s assumed that the quote ‘only connect’ suggests how much better life would be if we talked to each other.
The experience of two world wars, terrible though they were, did help people to connect – as people from very different backgrounds ended up working and fighting alongside each other.
That connection, that shared experience of striving for the same ends paved the way for the NHS, as a whole society was convinced of the justice of access to healthcare for all.
Class distinctions may have been weakened, but great inequality remains. We live in a world where a few handfuls of people, quite literally, own as much as half the planet. In our own country homelessness is increasing, food banks are now an accepted part of life and the NHS is in permanent crisis, yet many are very rich indeed. It’s said that this was one of the motivations for those who voted to leave Europe: the promises that the money going there would end up in a better place.
Our future, and the future for our economy, is far from clear, and for each of us the amount of control we have over that is going to be limited. What we can aim for is to ‘only connect’.
Churches and worshipping communities are places where people from all walks of life gather under the same roof and have that opportunity; it’s a huge strength.
In his message, broadcast at Christmas, Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, said this: ‘After all that’s happened this year, she would hope that all of us make a resolution to do something in 2017 to bring communities back together.’
The Jo Cox foundation, set up in her name, is continuing the work that Jo began with the Loneliness Commission: an organisation seeking to find ways to reduce the epidemic of loneliness in our society. Loneliness is something we have all experienced, and one of the reasons we’re told that Jesus chose disciples was simply to ‘be with him’.
Perhaps we can all resolve to help reduce this epidemic through volunteering, or visiting or simply picking up the phone. Perhaps we can also look for opportunities to ‘only connect’, not just with those we know who might be lonely, but also with thos we have little in common with, that we might help to build a better society for all.