Friday, April 27, 2012

Lessons Eleanor Rigby Taught Me

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
-Mother Teresa

Ever felt lonely?  I might as well ask the question "Are you human?"  Of course you have.  We all have.  Loneliness is a sad affect of human life, an unfortunate inevitability.  We've all felt isolated, we've all been abandoned.  The only real question of the matter is why.  Why do we feel lonely.  As the Beatles noted "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?"

It seems odd, especially in today's world.  You'd think in the years before Facebook, before the Internet, before computers, phones and such that there'd be an epidemic of lonely people.  But that seems not to be the case.  In an ever-growing world, where the population continues to rise exponentially and we find ever new and unique ways to socialize, loneliness has done nothing but grown.  I have 577 friends on Facebook, and I'm ashamed to admit I probably wouldn't manage to say much more than "Hi" to 90% of them if I passed them on the street today.  This is a terrible crisis; in a world of great wealth, this is a horrid poverty that plagues even the richest and wealthiest.
As a side note:  This is not worthy of being called
coffee.  I don't even care if it has art on it.
The truth about loneliness is that it is a matter of quality, not quantity.  We keep adding Facebook friends, collecting flocks of followers on Twitter, texting terabytes of data every second, and yet, we rarely stop to wonder about the quality of those friendships.  We've reduced our communication with people to a pathetic trickle of likes, lolz, and 140 character hash-tagged flippantries.  We may tweet about how good our venti foamy salted caramel caffeinated abominations are, but when was the last time you actually went up to the barista who made our sissied-up frou-frou coffee-based travesty and said "Mmm, thank you!  You did a wonderful job with this.  Have a great day!"  or "This is pretty damn good.  Keep being awesome!"  or even "Well done, thank you."  Nope.  All we get is Twitter: "Mmm (insert incredibly long name of wussy "coffee" drink) is delicious #yaystarbucks!"

We've got people everywhere, but not a drop of community.  In a world where we are constantly told how important it is to stand out, to be ourselves, to express ourselves and generally insure that there is a marked difference between me and you, we wonder why we feel so isolated.  As we strive to climb ladders and smash through barriers and accrue for ourselves enough honors and awards to turn our resumes into a book, we fail to realize the horrific side effects:  That in our attempt to isolate ourselves, we've very successfully isolated ourselves.  Everyone has told us how important it is to be an individual, and we've discovered that we have absolutely no idea how to be a community.  Even in our prayer lives, we hear echoes of "God give me this, God give me that, blahblahblahblahblah...." and very little genuine prayer for other people.

"Where the hell is everyone else?!"
If we want to live in a world where we try to set ourselves apart from everyone else, we have to understand the consequences of such a life: namely, that we'll actually be set apart from everyone else.  When we let our ambition get the better of us, it takes us to a very dismal place.  Sure, we can set goals for wealth, power, pleasure, and honor, but as the saying goes, "What a tragedy to climb the ladder of success, only to reach the top and find the ladder leaning against the wrong wall."  We may walk on city streets and dream of standing at the top of skyscrapers, but when we find ourselves at the top, we realize that we've traded everything worthwhile to get there.  We've quite literally sold our soul to gain the whole world, and the sad fact is, when we stand on the highest mountains or the tallest skyscraper, the whole world looks so very small.

You and I and all the lonely people need to realize one thing:  human beings don't flourish by standing on the shoulders of other human beings, we flourish when we stand together.  Skyscrapers, ironically enough, are so tall because people built them together.  Mankind is not meant to be a collective of individuals, its meant to be a community.  We need to give up our addiction to securing things for ourselves.  We need to stop asking "What am I entitled to?  What are my rights?" and start asking "What can we do together?  How can we genuinely care for each other?"

...and no one argued about who got the last
piece of pie.
The Church has a model for this, although we seemed to have lost it.  Not once in the early Church did we  hear anything such as "Well, I'm entitled to..." or "But I think I deserve..." or "I've earned..."  The disciples lived in one accord, of one mind and heart.  They weren't lonely!  They understood that friendship is more valuable than possessions, success, honor, or pleasure.  In today's Church, we've lost this sensibility.  Rather, we're taught that we ought to be critics and spectators, quick to judge and slow to believe.  Everyone comes to the Church with demands for themselves, whether it be the woman demanding ordination because "its my right!" or the people demanding gay marriage "because who are you to deny me what I want!" or the government demanding that we foot the bill for sin because "people have a right to it."  Yeah, sure, say we give you each what you want and you go home happy, then what?  You've manipulated the community for your own ends and found that you're still lonely, because you've made yourself the more important than the moon and the stars, only to discover outer space is a very cold empty place.

Its time for all the lonely people to find a home.  Our culture is tired, our culture is sad.  We're sick and tired of being used and abused and used again.  We're sick and tired of living lives in 140 characters and hash-tags.  We're sick and tired of climbing the long and lonely ladder to success.  Its time we returned home.  Its time we reclaimed the message that the Church has been echoing all along:  its about people.  Talk to be people.  Be with people.  Love people.  Fight with them if you have to, but for God's sake, experience people.  Acknowledge your barista and your janitor, give them a minute of your day and more than a two word conversation.  Tell your mother you love her, tell your father how thankful you are for him.  Set aside ambition for a few minutes and connect with people.  Pray for people, and I mean really pray for them.  If you genuinely seek to be with and for other people, to set aside yourself for a while and put on genuine care and concern for others, I guarantee, you'll never live another lonely day for the rest of your life.
One big happy family.  Just like it is supposed to be.

P.S.  If you like this blog, feel free to share it.  If not, please write your complaint in the form of a limerick and send it to me.  I'll answer the one I find most clever.

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