Getting connected. That’s the buzz theme of this decade. Whether it be via internet (preferably cable or DSL), bluetooth, GPRS or WAP technology, video-phone or web-cam, the pressure in the West is to upgrade one’s “connectivity”, so that we maximise the technological opportunity for communication.
I have to admit that the technology is bewildering. A year 12 student recently related how her father would occasionally call to check that she was studying, asking her to hold her mobile video phone up so that he could see where she was and what she was doing. Dick Tracy’s watch phone is no longer the stuff of fantasy. We are wired for connectivity in ways only animators once could achieve. But are we achieving the connections we desire?
With this capability at our fingertips, one could surmise that we understand and experience community at greater depths than ever before. The reality tells us that the two are in inverse proportion – they represent both a growing desire for connecting with others and at the same time an increasing alienation from our neighbours, our families, and even ourselves.
And I sense that it is integrally related.
We can only know who we are in relation to other people – an individual can only be so in relationship to community. And as we become more isolated from each other, we grow increasingly distant from ourselves, and from God. The converse is also true: the more we become isolated from ourselves, the less able we are to commune with others.
At the heart of christian understanding of God is the Trinity, and the incarnation. Both are concepts born of relationship: God in community with Himself and with us. We need the disciplines, the commitments, the patience to develop relationships with ourself, our community, and with God. Henri Nouwen identified the inherent paradox of such endeavour: “Solitude and community are the disciplines by which the space becomes free for us to listen to the presence of God's Spirit and to respond fearlessly and generously.’
To get connected: with ourselves, with God, with others. It’s not the buzz theme, but the great challenge of our time. Success is the life-blood of our being. And it’s something no technology can replace.
October 24, 2004