This article by David Brooks reminded me of the pain that people feel in contemporary society — he describes the isolation, sense of powerlessness. It seems to me that people know this but it’s hard to find the path through the commutes, the jobs that keep cutting staff while passing the workloads to the remaining folks, pressure to excel and insufficient resources for it, anxieties about global conflicts, concerns about children and being perfect parents, providing excellent and ongoing care for aging parents, financial worries, and the fatigue that comes from all those forces. It’s hard to the find that path that can lead back to a strong reality of community, belonging, support.
People are used to contract relationships — which are, like David Brooks wrote, a matter of agreement and the providing of services in exchange for barter, payment, whatever. What the human animal is built for, yearns for — is the knowledge of true care and commitment. It’s covenantal — meaning that there is a commitment on a heart level, to be there for and with one another.
We glimpse such a spirit of commitment when there is an emergency or tragedy, as strangers rush to help strangers, travel miles or days to be of service, seem to feel a sense of every mutuality — even more than compassion — true feelings of kinship. Such kinship requires a certain vulnerability on the part of each person — and a crisis forces that — makes it feel less like a risk. Reaching out in the midst of all the aforementioned forces — perhaps it is scary. Perhaps it feels like a gamble. Perhaps we have forgotten how energizing, nourishing, and humanizing trust and and real community is.
So much time is spent marshaling our own resources for our own lives – afraid that too much commitment to others will deplete us and short change us. Suppose the exact opposite reality is true?