A couple weeks back, I read blogger Victoria Fedden's comical Back to School post with interest. She didn't have to try hard to point out how laughably complex it has become to just prep one's children for the new school year.
I think her post connected with so many, not just because it reminisced about the simple glory days of the Seventies, but because it RANG TRUE.
It underlined questions a lot of us have: Didn't things used to be simpler? Didn't we used to connect more and worry less? Or maybe, we extend that one step farther to ask: Didn't things used to be BETTER?
I've theorized in my recent writing that we often feel a bit swept away by our fast-paced culture:
We do our best to hodge-podge together our own version of sanity and happiness as society evolves, even if sometimes we feel-deep down-that our raft will still be pulled wherever the cultural currents takes us.
This shared feeling of helplessness as culture drags us along into a 90-mile-per-hour techno-frenzy creates some reservation in me. I want to resist this sometimes subconscious surrender, the feeling that there-is-nothing-I-can-do-but-hang-on. I refuse to believe that this is the way we're designed to live. And particularly as a person of faith, I just can't believe God created us to live rushed, detached lives that sweep us away from community and civility.
I am troubled by stories I find in the headlines that seem to underscore our gradual surrender to disconnectedness.
In July of 2011, for example, an elderly woman notified Sydney's police department that she could not reach an 86-year-old resident who lived alone. When officials checked in on the woman who had lived in the same neighborhood and even the same house for more than 70 years, they found her decomposed body which had been lying there -- unnoticed -- for eight years.
Though the police determined there was no foul play, for many watching, the story still contained a crime. Maybe not a crime that would land a suspect in prison, but a quieter and more slow-building one.
A crime of forgetting.
A crime of isolation.
A perhaps unintentional assault on the way life should be.
I am convinced we'd be wise to take such jarring stories as reason to examine what we, as society, may be letting slip through our texting, tweeting fingers. And similarly, I wonder if we as people of faith might also be wise to pause and dream about how living our beliefs might help reverse this kind of social detachment?
Faith, as I recently noted on my blog, holds a lot of value for fostering community. Belief in God is inherently social. Friendship, I would go as far to say, is even among the life elements that most reveal God to me. I'm convinced that it is in the space between people where God sometimes dwells most.
This sentiment has been echoed by other religious observers.
Mary DeTurris Poust, for example, says this in her book Walking Together:
The culture we live in isn't always encouraging when it comes to making and sustaining lasting friendships. We need friendships that go beyond pleasantries exchanged at the end of the driveway, or waves from our car as we head to the grocery store. We may be more connected than ever before, thanks to email and the Internet and cell phones. And yet, we have never been so disconnected from the people who could add warmth and support and companionship to our increasingly isolated lives.
Similarly, Carmen Caltagirone offers this related note in the book Friendship As Sacrament:
God is not only a personal God who is deeply involved in each individual life, but he is also interpersonal. He not only exists in me and in you, but also between me and you, in our relatedness to one another. The love we share in human relationships is part of the grandness of a God who cradles us tenderly in his all-loving embrace. Whenever pure, selfless love is shared, we experience God.
Rather than just google and post Facebook graphics featuring verses about friendship, I'd love for some of us to take the time to pause and reflect on the kind of social interaction that is evolving in our culture, and to filter this through some of the lost emphasis on friendship from Christian tradition, as well as through research, and a more comprehensive viewing of Scripture.
It's my contention that faith should take us deeper into the experience of friendship... and show us more of God. And I believe the suggestion that friendship ranks among the most important beliefs of the faith is present everywhere we find faith -- in our Scriptures, in our tradition, in our logic, in our experience. ALL of it.