a puritan's blog

O God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs…

CROWDED LONELINESS

Due to a project at work i did some work with a local advertising print shop. In the course of my dealings with this business our conversation was directed towards community and how little we understand that model in America. This was also related to missions and how many travelers to other countries observe a true community setting in practice. This is not so in America. The fellow i was chatting with at this local business made reference to the two words at the title; Crowded Loneliness. How true and pointed are those words. We live in our houses, right next door to the next house yet how often have we had to rely on our neighbor for anything. How often have we even thought of our neighbor?

Recently my wife and i observed a real community in action. During a week-long trip to Guatemala we visited a local village in the mountains of Zacapa, Guatemala. We went hut-to-hut to visit, pray with and minister to needs they might have. At one point we saw a young gal descending the hill with a bucket of corn on her head. Later we saw her ascending with a different bucket and it had torilla flour in it. It was apparent to us that she had just conducted some commerce with her fellow villagers.

I include this short story to just bring to a point what i am trying to say. When we have need of something here in America we just go to the store. If we need help we would rather just struggle through ourselves and get it done. There is no symbiotic relationship. We live in so close a proximity yet so distant in relationship, so distant in feeling and heart, so distant in blood and tears.

Certainly in recent times many cities around America have been forced into such community type dealings where each member depended on another. I have family in Fargo, North Dakota, the site of the recent April 2009 flooding. Testimonies were flooding to my email about how the whole community was stepping up to the plate. Many evacuees were taken into homes not flooded, hands were lent to fill sand-bags and a common sense of teamwork existed for a while. I’m sure many can attest to the devastation of 9-11 and the communities across the land forced into relationship to ‘make it through.’ But what now, what of this sense of community when the going gets easy again? Will we have to be forced back into it the next flood, the next bomb, the next conundrum?

We have not understood as we ought the impact or the benefit of active community. We live in community but do not experience its benefit. We live crowded but mostly lonely. What will it take to learn to live in active community; i like to call this active living in community – true fellowship. What will be required of us to live in true fellowship as we have been created to enjoy? I truly believe that we will very shortly be forced into this active community living. What we could at one time run to the store to get we will have to borrow from our neighbor. What we could once do on our own we will now ask our neighbor for help. Is it pride that keeps us from this type of living? Is it democracy run to its ragged end?

The Amish have had it right in this respect. Now I know that they probably have problems that we are not aware of, but certainly in a deliberate community model would be able to solve problems democratically. No one needs to have a vast knowledge of the Amish or Mennonites living arrangements to know that when a barn is needing to be built or a house for newly weds the whole community pitches in. It is an event. Many other necessary duties are put on hold for a time and the majority devote themselves to that task. It is for the betterment of the community that it is like this. What can we boast on this regard? We live to the betterment of ourselves, our own mansions, our own pools and livestock and pantries. To our detriment we have not learned the first half of the Golden rule, nor have we learned to love our neighbor. In light of this how can we say we love God if we have not shown a deferment to our neighbor?

Can I offer any practical measures or lessons learned on this aspect? Hardly, for i have been just as guilty relying on myself, depending on my resources and ingenuity. Now, my wife and i have randomly crossed our neighbors property line to introduce ourselves and have made great friends with close neighbors in the past, but certainly there is no active community lived out daily with our neighbors. In fact, is it not for this fellowship that people built homes next to each other. They attended the same store, the same church building and actively traded, borrowed and gave resources to each other. The communities of Old America lived together because they knew each other. Practically we can cross our neighbors property line and strike up conversation. Practically we can ask for a cup of sugar again, instead of running to Wal Mart. It’s just that the economy set up in America deprives us of the need for dependence. It is the Land of the Free therefore we are all independent. It is the Home of the Brave therefore we grit our teeth and lean on ourselves when in need.

It is the Land of Crowded Loneliness and are suffering from the lack of community.

r. hagen

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