Photo from Vitamix.com

                                                              ODE TO UNITING

                                 (Dedicated to John Lennon and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I have a dream and I’m inviting

All to end the fighting and begin uniting.

Imagine a dream of no more dividing, black and whiting;

A bit of history rewriting, one world uniting.

I have a dream of hate subsiding and faith abiding,

With love presiding, kindness guiding and all uniting.

Joy is best when it is shared. Uniting with some person or people deeply and with one’s tribe is a fundamental need, like food and shelter. Our brains are wired to desire feeling socially united with others where we are accepted, supported and loved. Isolation and disunity cause us to suffer psychologically and joy to wither.

In his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” UCLA Psychology Professor Matthew Lieberman says this about uniting: “Becoming more socially connected is essential to our survival. In a sense, evolution has made bets at each step that the best way to make us more successful is to make us more social.” Here, Lieberman is not talking only about career success but in all areas of life and in all stages of aging. He adds, “We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” was one of Groucho Marx most quotable lines. Actually, Groucho was born into a dynamic and thriving club. Uniting as a family act, the Marx brothers, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, shared their joy from vaudeville to motion pictures through four decades.

You may not have the luck to be born into a family with which you find it fun to interact like the Marx Brothers. An idea would be to design and unite your own family with friendships.

Brother by another mother? Sister by another mister? Medical Genetics Research Professor Dr. James Fowler of the University of California San Diego has new data from 1,200+ sample group which provides scientific evidence that “friends are the family we choose.”

Dr. Fowler’s study and related genetics study at Yale University shows that friends share a lot of genes—as many as fourth cousins do. Evolutionary uniting as friends could have worked something like the following example. An early human finds she has the genetic mutation that allows her to speak. She senses the need to unite with a mate outside her family genetics who has this same ability. Together, like an Adam and Eve, they create a line of superior communicators. Uniting may well be Darwinian.

As lyricist Bob Merrill wrote for “Funny Girl,”:

“People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world. We’re children, needing other children and yet letting our grown-up pride hide all the need inside, acting more like children, than children.”


“Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.”—Elizabeth Gilbert

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”—Henry Ford

“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”—Swedish proverb

“To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.”—Mark Twain

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”—Carl Jung

“By building relations, we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier.”—Susan Lieberman

“What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real ‘disabilities.’”—Fred Rogers

“It is important to find a place where you feel trust, you feel belonging and stability.”—Bojan Krkic

“We are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.”—William Glasser

USEFUL and UPBEAT TIPS for ULTIMATE UNITING:  In her book, “Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters,” author Priya Parker offers these guidelines (here with my asides) for making connections more meaningful when we are uniting:

–UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE UNITING—You don’t have to be moving civilization forward, it’s perfectly fine to just be getting together for some laughs and fun but understanding the purpose will help assure your experience is a positive one.

–SCHEDULE A STANDING DATE FOR UNITING—Pick a weekly or monthly day and time to get together and don’t allow for a bunch of re-scheduling. If uniting is truly something you value, you will joyfully make the time a priority.

–NO SOCIAL MEDIA WHEN YOU ARE UNITING—Make a rule as some families who wish for more meaningful connection do, to lessen distractions by having everyone put their so-called “smart” phone in a basket.

22 WAYS TO ADD MORE JOY TO YOUR 2022 BY UNITING (from Joy & Gerontology):

  1. DEEPLY HATE SOMETHING WITH SOMEONE—“The reason grandparents and grandkids get along so well is that they have a common enemy,” humorist Sam Levenson reminds us. It may not say the most positive thing about us humans, but psychological research supports people bond more intensely over things they hate together rather than love together. “LET’S GO BRANDON” and Trump-bashing garner a lot more passion than any wonky policy discussion. If you’re exhausted with American politics, how about joining others to protest what you both perceive as unenlightened environmental thugs or on the home front, The First Wives/Husbands Club.
  2. GET A PART-TIME JOB—I’m thinking here of the millions of retired Americans who are tired of being stuck in lockdown with the same four walls and often even fewer people. Employers are begging for workers, the pay has increased and you will unite with co-workers and customers.
  3. SPIRITUAL RETREAT—You may need this even more after your political “hate fest.” There are opportunities for directed mindfulness for every budget. You could DIY via books and YouTube at home, find inexpensive navel-gazing gatherings in-state, or go all-out “eat, love, pray” in Bali.
  4. INNER-CITY LOFT LIVING—After a long marriage (aren’t they all?), I moved from suburbia to what was then the new frontier of “loft living” in my city. I expected to have a cool, perhaps edgier lifestyle. However, what I found was the warmest community I have ever experienced over my seven decades. People were proactively uniting with such things as monthly potluck dinners, group discounts on entertainment events and flash mobs. What I learned was in suburbia, I lived in my house bubble, waved to neighbors from my windows-sealed car bubble and spent the bulk of daylight hours in my work bubble.  Are you familiar with Sutton’s Law? It is named for bank robber Willie Sutton. When reporters asked why he robbed banks, Sutton famously replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” So, if you recognize the need to unite with more people, go where they are already uniting.
  5. FACEBOOK GROUPS and EVENTS—Just as we are fragmenting into micro-nations, uniting on the common ground that online connections allow means “Greek meets Greek” and flocking songbirds and lovebirds have never found it easier to meet up.
  6. BARTERING and UNITING—No one is great at everything. Delve into some self-analytics on your skills/traits and then think of what you are good at and what you are not so good at. Then, think of what you might give to someone else in a fair exchange of what they might give you. I would rather do yardwork than housework, so maybe I could unite with some neatnik who would like a container garden or a rakish lawn.
  7. PANDEMIC FATIGUE WHINE and THERAPY GROUP—Now, three years in, most of us are simply mad as Hell about COVID-19 and any other related numbers including Omicron 24/7, and we’ve had it UP TO HERE with all the “No No Rules” that come with it. Contact your local mental health authority to explore ways to safely unite for “COVID Chat Therapy” and therapeutic “venting.”
  8. THE JOY BOOK/FILM CLUB—Wanna add some joy to your life and to others? How about uniting through books and films that share messages of hope and positivity? I’m getting with my local public library to see if we can bolster such offerings to circulate. Zoom is a good way for positive-thinking readers to unite. A couple of books I found useful in 2021 were: “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin and “Little Pieces of Hope” by Todd Doughty.
  9. YOUR DREAM + TEAM—What is a project you’ve been thinking of recently or possibly for years? I’ll share one that has been running through my brain for a number of years, but I haven’t made it happen yet. Please, if you want to collaborate on this or have suggestions that could help me “git ‘r done,” let’s do some uniting. My dream has been to have some sort of weather-safe receptacle where people could leave their “prayer requests,” or if that is too churchy for you, their “wishes” that might be collected weekly and shared with a spirit-lifting team to usher to the universe. To materialize this “dream,” I would need some others on my team: someone with a public space, someone who I might help build a weather-safe receptacle, someone to let the community know this option exists and how it works, someone or group to collect and lift the prayers/wishes, other. I’m not suggesting this is “THE” project that most needs doing or that it should unite a lot of people, but maybe some, and I need some other heads and hearts uniting on a team to make it happen. Now, what is a project that keeps nudging you to unite a team to accomplish?
  10. UMARELLI, OLD MEN WHO STARE AT CONSTRUCTION SITES—Yes, this is actually a thing. This wouldn’t have to be about uniting only old or only men, but in Italy where it was first identified (“umarell” is an Italian term for an older man), it began with the retired male demographic. The American food corporation, Burger King, recruited umarells to monitor construction of their newly planned sites in Italy to unite loyal customers in this traditionally fast-food snubbing nation.
  11. UNITING FOR SLOWING—Going fast is often fun but for enhancing joy in one’s life, slowing is often the better pace. Writing about the “umarelli” above reminded me of the “Slow Food Movement,” another an Italian innovation. Many of us bemoan the shallowness and lack of connection in 21st century living. “Slow food” aims for people to find more pleasure via carefully prepared, fresh food and consciously relaxing and uniting with others at the table. Many cooks and chefs in the U.S. have joined the “Slow Food Movement.” When you have the time to explore the concept with more depth. There are many articles for you to read as you sip a cappuccino with your friends or better yet, with a nice glass of Prosecco. Buon appetito!
  12. DISC GOLF FOURSOME—This is an almost NO COST, public alternative to planet-hating, old school golfing. For the price of a Frisbee and a tiny commitment from public parks and rec, hundreds can benefit from the joys of nature, get some Vitamin D sunshine and exercise while uniting. Some communities even have golf discs to loan from public libraries and parks suppliers. (Last year, a local mayor of a small town and I were given a demonstration of this uniting and growing sport by local “Disc Golf Ambassadors” Bo Shirey and Mark Clark of the Cullman Disc Club. I left not only a believer, but an enthusiast of the sport.)
  13. UNITING INTERGENERATIONAL CHANGEMAKERS FOR POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGES—is the mission of encore.org. People who want to make the world a better place are often segregated by age—easy assumptions are that AARP is for senior issues and Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts for young activists. Encore bridges generations of do-gooders to do good by uniting across the U.S. and across the age groups.
  14. GET THEE TO A DISTILLERY—for locally brewed craft beers and vineyard-to-table wines which unite fun-loving adventurers. First explore local and then broaden your search for an easy day trip. My suggestions are “Karaoke Night/Thursday” at Goat Island Brewery, the downtown Huntsville craft beer pubs and a short drive to the vineyards of East Alabama (Calhoun and Cleburne counties).
  15. FINDING COMMON GROUNDS at COFFEE SHOPS—Uniting over a hot cup of coffee has been popular for centuries. The oldest coffee shop I’ve ever gotten a caffeine buzz in is Café Procope in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, a jump-jiving java joint since 1686. Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Voltaire and American ambassador, Ben Franklin sipped coffee there. Hey, if it’s good enough for that Ben, it’s good enough for me. The coffee I sipped at Café Procope tasted like lukewarm dish water, but today’s coffee culture offers flavorful, mostly affordable adventures to transport your creative brainstorming gatherings. Our small town has corporate coffee like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, but I prefer the authenticity of our top class, local shops: Berkeley Bobs, Karma’s and Duchess Donuts.
  16. MAKE ZOOM MORE FUN—The Zoom meetings I’ve participated in have mostly been sterile, spirit-sagging, sometimes sadsacky, second-rate, soporific and serious, but with a playful spirit, we can be uniting with a bit more zippity-do-dah. Zoom Pictionary, anyone? Zoom Charades? Zoom Cosplay? Zoom Rock, Paper, Scissors? Zoom Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day?
  17. LOCAL HISTORY WALKING TOUR—Join one if some group like your historical association is already sponsoring them. If not, create your own to unite people with each other and their shared place. Working with local folks a couple of years ago, I created a “History Cakewalk.” We learned some things while noshing bites of delicious, local favorites like glazed donuts Johann Sebastian Bach loved, while a gifted musician gave a mini-Bach organ concert at our Catholic cathedral, cannolis at Carlton’s Italian Café, classic orange rolls at the All-Steak Restaurant, crumb coffee cake at Karma’s, etc. This made for a history lesson that is a sweet memory.
  18. NEIGHBORING and UNITING—Good causes bring good people together and sometimes give even so-so people a feel-good opportunity. (Note: The next installment in this year-long series of “52 Odes to Joy” is fully dedicated to “Neighboring.”)
  19. PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL POM POMS—One of my “most-liked” Facebook postings was inspired by Garth Brooks, “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in majorette boots.” It was a joke, yes REALLY, but how about uniting people with some RAH-RAH like a community cheer team for girls’ soccer or even a parade. Just because some of our majorettes might have fleshed up a bit through the years doesn’t mean they can’t twirl like their inner-teen self. Heckfire, if it’ll bring some joyful smile-making during this pandemic, I’m totally up for shaking some pom poms.
  20. RUN AWAY AND START A CIRCUS—Can you juggle or swallow fire? Yeah, I know, me neither. But everyone has some talent to amuse. Together, and we’ll add a few others along the way, we can be THE GREATEST SMILE-MAKING SHOW ON EARTH!! Remember all the joy the Shriner’s Circus bring to town and they generate millions of dollars of do-gooder donations for the burn units of children’s hospitals across THE GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH!!
  21. EXERCISE/YOGA/LINE DANCE/ZUMBA–we can start a new movement. You can only dance in your go-go cage alone for so long and then you need to bust a move as you are uniting with others. Callin’ out around the world, are you ready for a brand, new beat? We’ll be dancin’ in the street.
  22. MAKE YOUR FORMER “KOOL-AID” HOUSE THE NEW, HEALTHY “VITAMIX HOUSE”—Smart kids grow up and so does their appreciation for “real food” and non-sugary nutrition. Big-year-olds enjoy colorful, healthier drinks. Try the array of smoothies at https://www.vitamix.com/us/en_us/, including the “Spinach/Mint Mocktail,” the “Cucumber/Cantaloupe Smoothie” and the recipe below for a gorgeous, magenta-hued “Mixed Berry and Green Tea Smoothie.” Replace your dining table with a ping-pong table as pottery joy-giver, Jonathan Adler, did—and your “Vitamix House” will generate even more laughter and fun than ever.

                                                THE MIXED BERRIES AND GREEN TEA UNITING SMOOTHIE

                                                                          (Source: Vitamix.com)


1 ½ cups green tea, chilled

2 Tablespoons honey

½ orange, peeled, seeded

1 banana, frozen, halved

2 cups frozen mixed berries


  1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
  2. Select Frozen Dessert program.
  3. Switch machine to Start and allow machine to complete programmed cycle.

Yield: 3 ½ cups


Jan. 22-Daniel “Big Fish” Wallace, Jan. 23—Mariska Hartigay, Jan. 24—Maria Tallchief, Jan. 25—Alicia Keys, Jan. 26—Ellen Degeneres, Jan. 27—Mikail Baryshnikov, Jan. 28—Jackson Pollock


“I hate connect-the-dot puzzles. That’s where I draw the line.”

“The secret to uniting in love is finding someone who treats you like royalty, someone who help you be a better person and someone who you enjoy physically. Then, making sure they never meet.”

“I thought I came up with a great idea for making a belt by connecting watches from my collection…Then, I realized it was just a Waist of Time.”

1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS from MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued)

70. Jiffy Pop.

71. Being on a farm under the stars with no “light pollution.”

72. New Orleans Superdome.

73. The Coneheads.

74. Horton Hatches the Egg.

75. Cindy Lou Who.

76. The Who.

77. The group hug ending “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” series.

78. Betty White

79. The Betty White Super Bowl Snickers ad.

80. French cuffs.

81. French ooh-la-la.

82. Ruby slippers.

83. Ruby Begonia.

84. Donna Reed’s pearl necklace.

85. Tommy Bahama shirts.

86. The roll of Lifesavers in your mom’s church purse.

87. Wedgwood divorce China.

88. Madame and Waylon.

89. Willie and Waylon.

90. A train ride to the city of New Orleans.

91. A nudie sideshow to benefit the blind.

92. Brailling

93. Cotton candy bought with hard-earned cotton-pickin’ money.

HAPPY UNITING JANUARY! Thank you, Dr. King and John Lennon.


Ben South