Two of the most deadly things for the human soul are being ignored and being excluded.
We all have this inbuilt need to be connected to others, to have a sense that our lives count for something.
Everyone needs to know that their life has meaning.
When people feel isolated, when hope is lost, when people can no longer see a purpose for their life - life loses its meaning and the outcome is deadly.
No one understood this better than Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp during WWII. It was in that crucible of cruelty, despair and human suffering that he developed and tested his theory of logotherapy. The cornerstone of logotherapy is the simple idea that everyone needs to have a purpose for living. When people no longer have any sense of purpose, or meaning, they lose the will to live.
Frankl helped many of his fellow prisoners survive the horrors of the death camps by helping them see that even when everything they had valued had been taken from them, including their closest family, they could still carry on by finding a sense of purpose for their lives. For some prisoners this purpose was - incredibly - nothing more than to endure suffering with dignity. Frankl would later write that if someone has a "why", they can survive any "how".
About a year after he was liberated in 1945, Frankl wrote a short book titled Man's search for meaning. It is now officially listed as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States.
It has been re-printed numerous times and remains an international bestseller. At the time of the release of the most recent edition in 2006, more than 12 million copies had been sold worldwide.
I mention this because I am working through a series on what it takes to build a sense of community.
Social scientists say there are four pillars to a healthy community - membership, influence, integration and shared emotional connection. Last week I summarised the concept of "membership". This week I will begin unpacking "influence".
"Influence" in this context is about having a sense that your life matters; an idea that is very similar to the Maori concepts of "mauri ora" (life) and "mana".
Mana. It's a little word that carries a huge amount of meaning and embodies a number of important ideas.
In Maoridom, almost every activity has a link to the concepts of mana and tapu (spirituality). Mana is not just about authority, prestige and power but also authenticity, effectiveness and stewardship. People with the greatest "mana" are frequently those who serve others the most.
In other words, mana is not about power and control, but serving and influence.
More on this next week. In the meantime, ka kite ano.
-Inspector Bruce Horne is the Rotorua police area commander.