Isolating Ourselves to Protect Ourselves
From the pundits of Capitol Hill, to the professors of the academy, those reflecting on the changes in our society agree on one thing:
The world is becoming increasingly impersonal.
We’re becoming more connected through social media, virtually, but less connected in person, in reality.
The retreat of personal relationships is the product of an unbecoming impulse: a deep-seated selfishness.
True friendships are demanding. Personal encounters are time-consuming. Face-to-face communication can be exhausting.
Our growing social isolation is a consequence of self-preservation.
A prescient Fyodor Dostoevsky, writing in nineteenth-century Russia, had this same diagnosis. Listen to his critique of modernity:
‘Everyone now strives most of all to separate his person from others, wishing to experience the fullness of life within himself, and yet what comes of all his efforts is not the fullness of life but full suicide, for instead of the fullness of self-definition, he falls into complete isolation. For all men in our age are separated into units, each seeks seclusion in his own hole, each withdraws from the others, hides himself, and hides what he has, and ends by pushing himself away from people and pushing people away from himself.’
‘He accumulates wealth in solitude, thinking: how strong, how secure I am now; and does not see, madman as he is, that the more he accumulates, the more he sinks into suicidal impotence. For he is accustomed to relying on himself, he has separated his unit from the whole, he has accustomed his soul to not believing in people’s help, in people or in mankind, and now only trembles lest his money and his acquired privileges perish.’
How discordant this is with the picture which emerges when we consider the triune God in relation – whose earthly spokesman, Jesus Christ, championed a different view, a perspective saturated in personal engagement:
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’