Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alone with Others {It's a Doozy}

We're talking about moral isolation in my Social Ethics class. One question the material poses is, "Why are some of us more prone to alone-ness?" So now I present to you:

Tuesday's Rabbit Trailing with Allie

The author of the book we're reading says that at every moment we're in a solitary state, and yet at every moment, even when alone, we're also with others. The others that we're alone with are the people, whether present or absent, who love, terrify, motivate or challenge us. The imagined approval and disapproval of these "watching" people end up being a measure of "true North" in our lives, guiding our decisions and opinions by proxy. Depending on how you're wired, you might be capable of more love, trust and depth of feeling for your others than for the real people in your life.

Alone-ness: I suspect that those of us who have a high level of engagement when we're out with people in new experiences will tend to feel that these experiences demand a focus and attention level from us that makes us temporarily deaf and blind to the guiding presence of the others that we've let be our "true North." It tends to make us feel like we don't know where we're going or if we're "on the right track" until we get alone again.

Everyone knows that disapproving and shaming people have a really big impact on us, so most of us try to steer clear of anyone who presents us with such blatant abuse. But in a less obvious way, a cynical city like Nashville also can have a really big impact on what kind of others we invite into our head.

He's working on his music all the time, but he's not even that good.

She's starting her own business, but it's never going to take off.

They're getting married but they don't even like each other most of the time.

Everyone wants to be around her but they don't know her like I do.

Cynicism nearly destroyed me because its piercing and merciless gaze turned around and found me standing behind it, completely vulnerable and just as worthy of mockery.

We have a vacuum within us, gasping for guidance, and it will be filled. So we look for the wisest, strongest voice in the crowd and when we find it, we put the bit in our mouths and hand the reigns over. Sometimes it's the smart-ass who has a one-liner for everything, and he becomes the person staring back at us in the mirror. Sometimes it's the ministry leader that has a loophole to explain why every good action is just a bad action in disguise, and they become the doubt that there's any point to Christian discipleship. We can jerk and dissent the idea of it, because it makes us look all too weak and fashionable. But it may also turn out to be the truth about our nature, whether we acknowledge it or not, so it behooves us to at least examine ourselves and question it.

A final note regarding the Christian hope.
The joy of the Gospel is that Christ sent His spirit into the world and from the way the apostle John tries to explain it, "Whoever keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. By this we know that He remains in us, by the spirit which He gave us." Not that John was any kind of classical version of Freud or anything. But this understanding of the possibility of the work of the spirit of Christ in our lives tranquilizes that hefty psychology and stuffs it into a rental car's trunk.

If the voice in my head and the other presence that guides me, is the spirit of Christ, and is not a construct of the imagination to approve or disapprove, but an actual presence external to me that is directly acting upon me--that's a mystical wonder indeed. It is my opinion that the more the spirit of Christ becomes our other, the less alone we'll have to be, the more joyful our alone-ness will become, and the better steered our lives will also be. They'll certainly still be guided in a strong way--but we can trust that wherever we are guided will be a place of infinite possibility and hope.

"End Rabbit Trail Here"


  1. Jenn said...

    Amen my friend.

    The danger of jadedness and cynicism is that those swords have a point on either end. As we run another through we inevitably do ourselves deep harm as well.

    I truly enjoy your rabbit trails.

  2. Wonderful post Allie. I always appreciate it when people analyze their motivations. Sounds like a fun class.

  3. Girly, I love you for this... and for being wonderfully YOU!


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