~ 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
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
in the Christian Faith ~
Spiritual Resource Services © July 7, 2005
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