Letter from South America

Dear Bob,
I’m taking my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). The course is called “The Science of Happiness” offered by Berkeley University on the EdX platform. It’s really cool: having all the material available at any time, and then the discussion enriched by the diverse views of the so many participants. And it is free! Great indeed. But if I had the option I would not take distance education as opposed to attending a class in person. There is, in my opinion, something about the teacher, the real person, the character and the human interaction that it is supposed to educate, facilitate, and help one develop the mind. And perhaps I would prefer that every human connection I have was a real one. But this is the era of technology and we get to have “virtual” connections and yet, manage to have the feeling that there is a true human relationship. In the course, just like here, when we have an exchange of thoughts, we do it without seeing each other, without listening to our voices (at least not in real time, except for the live Q&A session) or seeing our reaction. But still, it feels like there is connection and attraction and it is fun.
Human connection is a necessary condition for happiness, scientists have found. I don’t have many close friends, in fact, I just have … boy, not many strong relationships as we usually consider them. Do our relationships here in the blog count? I say they do because although we might not contact each other through our senses, I “see” you through your thoughts, your words, the stories you tell here, your interpretation of things, your humor. And likewise, I think you “see” me in the same way. I find meaning and meaning is what matters.  
I think human connection is very complicated and one might wonder if it is true that it is possible to have really good relationships. I guess it goes with one’s personality and culture. Where there is a culture of non-trust, where a common view is that the other is always up to something, something that might affect you negatively, meaningful relationships are not going to flourish. War, poverty, corruption, injustice corrupt the soul. When I lived on Gabriola Island, in Canada, I was always amazed of how nobody seemed to be on guard, suspecting the other’s intentions; nice feeling. This is the second week of the course and the topic is precisely how human connection is such key to happiness. I have to admit that I never thought much about how to make my relationships very strong but how not to be affected by others and be free and supposedly happy. But it seems that this is not the correct approach if happy is what I want to be. A lot to study and eight more weeks to go; I am excited.
I want to tell you that you are a very important person in my life, dear Bob, and that my relationship with you and the contributors of this blog is of the most importance to me.
Until next time,