Here’s the first in a new series of (probably) Sunday/Monday posts: AtS. Pastor Tony McCollum‘s sermons are meaty but accessible, and I almost always jot a few personal notes about the sermon. So this post series will put those notes out there for public consumption. (Be afraid.) This week’s sermon was Part 4 of Superheroes: “Super Friends.”
Quote of the week: “Loneliness is the epidemic of our age.”
Hearing that reminded me of the classic Star Trek episode “Requeim for Methuselah.” In the episode, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet a human being called Flint on a remote planet. A woman, Rayna, lives with him, and seems to be out of touch with her emotions. At one point, Flint asks Rayna if she feels lonely, and when she asks “What is lonely?” he replies, “It is the thirst of the flower in the desert.” (We later learn that Rayna has a secret.) That thirst is the epidemic of our age.
I thought also of Second Life, the increasingly popular online world. You can do everything in-game that you can do in real life. (And I mean everything: relationships, sex, even crime.) The twist is, when you’re finished, you just turn off your machine and go back to your ‘first life’. Real relationships, though, demand the kind of time and attention (and contact, people!) that a virtual environment can’t provide. And the beauty of these relationships is that they can and must happen in the midst of life’s traffic, since real friendship is joining another person for a leg of the journey. [Side note: Second Life has become important enough that politicians are taking notice. Democratic presidential hopeful Mark Warner appeared in-game in August, interviewed by a blogger. Read the full story here.]
Finally, I thought a bit about the art/social project PostSecret. How painful to live with secrets and have no one to share them with.
What is the fruit of the loneliness epidemic? The no-brainers—depression, desperation, owning too many cats—pale in comparison to at least one other thing: lack of accountability. Not having someone to say, “Not such a good idea,” undermines our best attempts to live ethically. On the other hand, doing without someone to encourage our dreams we might not dare to really live. As PT implied, without someone to (at minimum) hear us out and provide correction and/or guidance, we cannot live fruitfully.
I know a man who has never really had a true friend. He sits in prison now, awaiting the outcome of a new charge that might keep him inside for the next twenty-five years. He once told me, “I just don’t seem to be able to make good decisions.” It’s true, but his poor decision-making arose not from some genetic mental or emotional deficiency but from not surrounding himself with true friends, friends who had his best interests in mind. Now, barring some miracle, he has lost the chance to make a change.
RESPOND: Do you have some true friends? Many, a few, or just one?