In the previous post, I introduced the rhythm of Communion. In what follows I want to talk about the rhythm of Relating. I’ve struggled with what to call this rhythm through the years. Something like community or life together flows of the tongue much easier. But there’s a reason why I use this word. Let me explain.
In Western society, friendships are expendable. When we try to connect with others, we often ask questions like, “What’s in this for me?” or “How can this benefit my life?” or “What’s this going to cost me?” Relating does not come naturally to us. Loving others is not something that we do very well or very easily.
It’s easy to criticize this fact. We describe the experience of individualism, isolationism, loneliness, selfishness, etc. Over the last few decades, cultural observers have used images like the lonely crowd, bowling alone, the saturated self, a society of strangers, intimate strangers, the myth of individualism and many others. There has never been a time in the history of mankind when we have practiced a way of life that is driven by such isolation. While it’s easy to diagnose the problem, it’s a lot harder to talk about my own individualism. And it’s even hard to actually do something about it.
Imagine that you are in a conversation with a historian who lives 200 years from now. Somehow she has developed the technology to send you an questionnaire so that she can better understand life in the 21st century. Her research is not delving into the history of war or politics, which is the normal stuff for history classes. She is focusing on everyday life to determine how people lived.
She asks you, “What words might she use to describe how we live today?” Every time I lead a group through this process, the words used always include things like:
• Fast-paced, frenzied, time-crunched
• Lonely, isolated
• Unsettled, transient
• Binge watching
• Extended family scattered
• Controlled by fear
• Exciting, exhilarating