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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ The Pain and Gift of Loneliness ~

"All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?" Although it's been a few decades, those questions written and sung by the British musical foursome, The Beetles, still ring in my mind from time to time.

Even though the questions focus on people, they are really about a human condition, that of loneliness, a rather pervasive estrangement from one another. A lonely person will feel lonely whether in a crowd or on a deserted beach. A crowd stands as a mirror of the person's disconnection from others. The cadence of breaking waves on an empty beach plunges the lonely person into a reflection of his or her disconnection as well.

The unlonely person (for lack of a better description) in a crowd feels content, out of which he can better perceive the pain of disconnection in the many faces around him. On that deserted beach, the unlonely person revels in the communion of the saints and the voice of the Creator in His resplendent creation. Loneliness is not felt.


Should the lonely and unlonely find themselves together on that deserted beach, the first would focus on the other. His or her neediness would reverberate in his or her self-conscious speech. The latter may well point to the world that transcends both of them into the infinite. Only by careful listening would the two understand each other a bit. The unlonely, however, would have more to teach the other. unless he was one of those "feel good therapists" who encourages people to think of adversity and pain as threats to the human spirit and to be "treated" by "building self-esteem" and "loving and believing in yourself." Much of the human condition is pathos. Though they share the same linguistic roots, pathos is very different from pathology. 

The tragedy of September 11, 2001 in the US was pathos (the word from which we also get the term "pathetic.") The public and private therapeutic community in hospitals, clinics and offices presented as an army ready to treat the wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. Business was unexpectedly low. People overwhelmingly opted for their families, spiritual mentors and soul-connected communities for strength, health and recovery. Good for them. They went against the post-modern paradigm that only "expert," "professional" intervention could effectively address such human suffering and pathos. I say "good for them" because they, if not the professionals, knew on some level the difference between pathos and pathology.
 
The US government is now encouraging and supporting the screening of our students for pathologies. Such "Child Study" evaluations used to require written consent (and participation) from parents. To get around the laws, schools are making such screening evaluations part of their health curriculum, so parental consent (even notification) is not required. What is pathetically amusing is how schools who do poorly in teaching our children to write and read effectively, or to do simple arithmetic, are allowed to teach our children how to make personal decisions about sexual practices and to "tolerate" all forms of psycho-social pathological life-styles as "self-expression" and "personal rights." Parents who embrace political-correctness and think "fundamentally" rather than "transcendently" will unfortunately trust the "professionals."

The US just celebrated the signing of our Declaration of Independence, wherein the signers held that "all men are created equal." Eloquence is hypnotic. The "all men" in the Declaration is not synonymous with the "all men" in biblical literature. We know this because history testifies to the signers' definition of "men": White, male, aristocratic landowners (many of whom were slave owners.) "Men" did not include women, who fought for two hundred years for the "right" (inalienable?) to vote. Laborers who worked the land were the equivalent of the Medieval serfs, with little rights to participate in government or vote for their representatives. "Men" did not include Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans or Orientals. They too had to suffer to be included in the Declaration's definition of "men." And they certainly are not "equal" to other men even today.

The first probable visitors to North America were the Vikings, looking for new territory and adventure. They lost interest. The first European visitors did not come here to escape religious persecution, but rather to pursue capitalism. They needed a shorter trade route to the resources of the Far East, funded by Spain in anticipation of increased financial gain. Since 1492, the natural and economic resources of this land and its inhabitants were plundered during the following centuries, an endeavor reaching into South America. After a few wars, Britain succeeded in owning the North American colonies and plundered them for financial gain. The Declaration of Independence was an indictment of this economic and political vampirism. King George was accused of things for which he was and was not liable. But he was not accused of persecuting the religious freedom of the colonies. The colonists wanted to be free of British rule and economic exploitation ("taxation without representation"), not of any religious persecution, for the colonists enjoyed the practice of their religions (while making sure the Native Americans stopped enjoying theirs, in the name of missionary zeal that involved the destruction of culture, land, natural resources as well as people.)

The writers of the US Constitution were wise to stipulate that the government can make no law that infringes upon the people's free exercise to practice their religions. Though the laws haven't changed (the domain of the Senate and House of Representatives, our legislative branch,) the decisions of the US Supreme Court have modified the landscape. Now a city or township can seize the real estate of churches, synagogues and mosques if a corporate developer can show that the town would better benefit economically by replacing it with businesses.

Both the mainstream therapists and government bureaucrats prey on the stress and self-interest of the people. Stress and trauma are not destructive threats to the human spirit. To foster the notion they are is insulting to the human capacity and the power of the Immanuel, the God-with-us. People are best controlled by fear and ignorance.

Our enemies within and outside strive to have us believe adversity and loss are threats to avoid rather than challenges that forces us to engage our Creator more deeply and personally. They strive to have us believe we are needy, fragile and dependent upon them. Should we fall for it, we begin to react in fear and forsake the resources, power and love of our God. We are not strengthened when we clothe our children and ourselves in security blankets that feel good and so "wonderful and highly self-esteemed," seemingly protecting us from the vigor and adversity we need for a stoic growth into Christlikeness. 

The founders of this nation were noble and courageous in many ways. I do admire them. But let's not have our romanticism forget they were like us, sinners and full of faults. I will observe the same about the fathers of the First Century churches, and I do so with their support, for they all observed the same thing about themselves. Such observation gave rise to the ancient repetitive prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

That prayer is my prescription for loneliness. When I feel that mercy, in a crowd or on a deserted beach, I never feel lonely.

  

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
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