Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Existential isolation.

The following blog post is intensely personal.  I did not realize how personal it would be until I wrote it all out.  But perhaps I will post it anyway.  At any rate, you have been warned.

Let me tell you a little bit about what psychologists call the existential fear of isolation.

You are fundamentally alone. There is an unbridgeable gap between you and the rest of the world.

In other words, the space between you and other human beings - you and everything else, in fact - is this weird undefined medium about which you know very little.  All you really know, as the metaphysical solipsist is quick to point out, is your own thoughts.  Remember Descartes?  "Je pense; donc, je suis."  I think; therefore, I am.  In a sense, that is the only certainty.  All else is secondary, and somehow distant.  When you speak to a friend, that friend cannot share your mind or your feelings.  Your existence and your experience is yours only.  And therefore, in a very real sense, you are alone.

The isolation I have described above is something existential psychologists claim we are all afraid of.  It's one of the four things we all must come to grips with (the others are death, meaninglessness, and freedom; however, we don't have the time to fully address them here).  And it makes sense, right?  Isn't isolation sort of terrifying, when you think about it?

Well, I think so.  Because I think about it often.  In fact, I sort of have an existential crisis about once or twice a year (though I didn't really know what to call it until I came to college).

But I did not write this post to depress you.  I wrote it in hopes that anyone else with similarly recurring crises can learn from how I got out of my most recent one.

See, my past week and a half have been pretty rough.  I faced two or three of my existential fears, most of all isolation.  I had a lot of stress.  I did a lot of thinking.  I felt pretty lonely.  I got in a huge argument with a good friend, and shouted at him - for the first time in literally years I actually shouted at another human being in genuine anger.  Those of you who know me well know how rare that has become since I was a teenager.  I am a pretty mellow person.

But you know what?  In the midst of this existential crisis, I got a phone call from my mother, an email from my sister, and an apology (via text message) from someone who has hurt me.  All three of these communications were unsolicited, completely out of the blue.  People just wanted to say hi.  People just wanted to reach out to me.

God wanted to reach out to me.

And I suppose that is the testimony I would like to share with you.  I know that none of us are truly alone in the world.  According to the theorists, part of overcoming existentialist isolation is coming to grips with the fact that "the universe is indifferent to you."  But you know what?  It isn't.  The universe is not indifferent to you.

The universe depends on you.  You are a part of it.  A fundamental part, in fact:  if it were not for you, the universe would not be as it is.

I've previously mentioned the implications of a theology that defines God as passible, affected by our actions, and cooperative with us in the betterment of the world.  To repeat myself a little:  "the God I worship is not the 'Unmoved Mover' as described by Aristotle; instead, He is more like the 'Most Moved Mover' as described by Clark Pinnock.  He is a Father, as described in the scriptures.  He is co-operating with mankind in the universe, getting His hands dirty and striving, with us, to make the universe a better place.  I believe it is more accurate to describe God as a cooperator rather than a controller.  God is legitimately invested in relationships with His creations, and He is profoundly affected and moved by us.  In short, God sacrifices omnipotence (as traditionally defined) in order to grant us genuine free will."

That is why God reached out to me this week.  I am not unimportant to Him.  He shares this universe with me, and He wants to work together with me to make it a great place for the both of us.

And you know what?  That is why I am not alone or insignificant in the universe.  Furthermore, neither are you.

Our seeming metaphysical isolation is but an illusion.  While it is true that no other human being can share your mind or your soul, we are still all connected to each other, as brothers and sisters under God.  When we reconnect with Him, then we can reconnect with one another.
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