Tuesday, September 1, 2009

whatever happened to community?

A friend recently shared this quote from a book and there is no way that I could come close to doing it justice without just posting it. It is a bit long but worth every minute you will spend reading it.

"Our weaknesses and fears, much more than our achievements and successes, drive us inward and put us in touch with what is deepest, softest and most worthwhile within the heart. In that part of the heart we discover who we really are and there we understand that we are not what we achieve, but what is given to us.

Outside that, when we posture strength and lie and pretend, we learn falsely that life is not a gift to be shared, but a possession to be defended. The road to love and intimacy lies in a compassion born out of the perception of shared struggle and shared fear. When we genuinely see another's wound and struggle, then that other enters a deeper, more real, part of us.

But it is precisely here that the problem lies. More than anything else, we struggle not to reveal our pain and fears to others, for we have been falsely taught that community and love are grounded upon something else, namely upon impressing each other. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to intimacy and community is that propensity to believe that others will love us only when we are impressive or strong.

Because of this, we go through life trying to impress others into liking us. Rather than sharing ourselves as we really are--vulnerable, tender, struggling, full of fear--we try to be so sensational that there can be no possible reason not to love us.

Like the inhabitants of Babel, we try to build a tower that is so impressive that we overpower others. The result for us, as the result then, is counterproductive. Because of pretense, we go through life "speaking different languages," that is, unable to find a common ground upon which to understand each other. Understanding takes place through compassion and compassion is itself the fruit of shared vulnerability.

Thus, as long as we hide our struggles and fears, we will not find intimacy. When fears and struggle are hidden, when achievement, health, attractiveness and friendship are projected as automatic, then our talents, intelligence, wit, charms, beauty, and artistic and athletic abilities cannot be seen for what they are intended to be, namely beautiful gifts which enrich life.
They are projected, then, as objects of envy and they become forces which create jealousy and further wound.

When there is no shared vulnerability life becomes what we can achieve, and our talents are possessions to be defended.
We must therefore admit to each other the cost of our struggle. Our real fears must be allowed to surface. Intimacy lies in that.

Intimacy and community will be achieved only when we are so vulnerable that others can see that we share with them a common condition.

The threads of compassion and a concomitant intimacy will appear automatically when we present ourselves as we really are, without false props, as tender."
-Ronald Rolheiser

I have often wondered "whatever happened to the love and community that I read about in the New Testament?" "Why is it that to a large degree, the church today looks nothing like the Church we read about in the Bible?" Could it be that a lot of it has to do with fear? For instance, pastors are afraid to let people know that they don't have it all together and they don't have all the answers. In turn, people are then afraid because they now have this "superchristian" example that they feel like they need to live up to and the last thing they want is for others to find out that they are actually human. As a result, there is less intimacy and vulnerability and the church and the world are worse for it.

Or maybe I am just crazy and everything is OK. Maybe God never intended for us to live like the people in the New Testament. Maybe he just put that there so that we would learn and become so enlightened that we would never have to suffer like them or die to our own selfish wants and desires. Maybe in our day and age we wouldn't have to be failures like virtually every person (outside of Jesus) that God has ever used in a powerful way.

Yeah maybe everything is just the way that he wants it in our little world of fish sticks, i mean stickers, and Sunday morning churchianity...