Monday, July 23, 2012

Our longing for connection

As I mentioned before, I am currently and slowly making my way through For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I came across the following passage in which Macaulay shifts from the idea of "home" to the much more complex issue of the people who inhabit our homes:

"We cannot start with homes. We have to begin with the people who make and live in them. We are part of a generation and culture that has forgotten the very framework and the truth of who persons are and why being human is special and wonderful. With this loss, personal self-understanding also disappears, along with a sense of purpose. Having forgotten or turned aside from these roots, we've gone on to throw out the fruits that grew on the tree of this understanding. Our culture has changed rapidly. Fundamental knowledge of right and wrong is disappearing, and in the subsequent confusion, people sell their souls for a "mess of pottage." Our schools, workplaces, houses, and apartments are filled more and more with lonely people seeking someone who will love them and not just use their bodies. Counselors are kept fully busy as persons seek "self-worth" and try to decide who and what they are. Good relationships grow out of the lives of persons who have roots and who are living in a balanced way. Relationships have always needed perseverance, compromise, consideration, priority, enjoyment, forgiveness, and unself-centeredness. So of course, with so many persons unsure of who they are, relationships dwindle and start evaporating like the morning mist on a hot day."
In light of the tragic events of this past week, it has suddenly become painfully easy to see the effects of extreme disconnectedness. One untethered soul wreaks havoc on the defenseless and vulnerable, snuffing out lives without an apparent thought. This is the most extreme example of what happens when one lives life outside of relationship; when one's reality seems to be more closely tied with electronic media and war game fantasies.  When one's understanding of the value and fragility and beauty of life is nonexistent. And when one's understanding of his own value seems not to be based on what his or her life may mean in terms of service, friendship, and eternal worth.

And so in a few moments this tragedy is enacted and it stands as a harsh and difficult reminder that in our lives the truly important thing is connection, something so easily ignored in the rush of everyday life. It almost feels cliché that in these moments we want to hug our families closer, but that is the very natural reaction that shows we are creatures who long for and crave connection. And so, as we pause in the reminder that life is brought meaning by the people we share it with, it is worth asking the following questions, fully recognizing that this event is complex and beyond simplistic understanding and solutions. Are we living lives of investment in our families and in our friends? Are we modeling for the children in our lives that a valuable life is one in which we make time to open the door to our lonely neighbor? Are we showing them that investing in friendships has more eternal significance than contributions to retirement accounts?

It is hard to contextualize events like those in Aurora, but it is important to pause, honor the victims, and try to see what there is to learn in an event of such tragedy. It also make us more sympathetic to those around the world who live in daily fear of violent death, those in war zones, those who live under brutal regimes, and those in our own neighborhoods who are surviving their own private tragedies.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Aurora and with those around the world affected by violence. May there be healing to those wounded both physically and emotionally. And may a peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts and minds of those troubled and distressed.  

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