This week I want to return to the subject of loneliness. I wrote a few weeks ago about the dire loneliness epidemic sweeping our country, especially in our big cities and how the Church helps to defeat that problem. This week, I’d like to focus on the importance of deep connections and relationships. As I mentioned in my last post, living in New York City or anywhere for that matter makes it important to maintain deep spiritual connections with others. So often we live in proximity to others but without community with others. The past week, the issue of proximity without community has been brought to my attention in a myriad of ways: in my weekly Bible reading, in my Christianity and Society class, and on a friend’s blog. Since this idea has been so prevalent in my mind the past few weeks I’ve decided to explore it further today.
For many of us, social interaction can be manageable at best and painfully awkward or obtrusive at worst. So often after social humiliation or rejection, we denigrate the idea of connections and relationships and enter into a state of perpetual self-resignation. We see relationships as chaos, disorder, and unpredictability. But what if in reality relationships are the opposite? What if loneliness was chaotic, unchartered territory and connection was order and civility? What was truly intended for us.
Let’s look closely at the first relationship: Adam and Eve. God creates a sentient man in the garden from speech. This week in my Christianity and Society class we read Dr. Jordan Peterson a clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professors take on this story in his book 12 Rules for Life.Peterson writes “Chaos is the formless potential from the God of Genesis I calling forth order using language at the beginning of time. It’s the same potential from which we, made in that Image, call forth the novel and ever-changing moments of our lives.” Peterson goes on to describe how out of the chaos God created Adam and Eve. God the all-knowing creator of our universe destined Adam into a relationship with Eve. God recognized our need for community, which Peterson comments on in his book writing “Our brains are deeply social. Other creatures (particularly other humans) were crucially important to us as we lived, mated, and evolved.” God knew that is was not good for a person to be alone, so he gave Adam a partner.
However, we often misinterpret the nature of relationships like the relationship between Adam and Eve. Friendship is not merely for socialization, birthday parties, group messages, and weekend getaways (although it certainly can be, and that is all good) it is about creating a partnership to push us onward, forward, to become better versions of ourselves. Seth Cohen, a Senior Director at The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation in Atlanta, GA writes on his blog I’ve Been Thinking… that “ The language of the creation of Eve is notable because the text of the Torah reads that God created an “Ezer k’negdo” — which can be translated as “a helper who works opposite/in contradiction.” It has a phrase that has always fascinated me — what exactly is a helper who works opposite you? Is it akin to kind of a personal yin and yang from the eastern Taoist philosophy ?”  Cohen like Peterson understands the deep aspects of “beyond the surface” relationships unlike those many in our society engage in.
I wonder what our society would look like if we fostered relationships that were deep? Genesis 1 deep. What kind of order out of chaos would that provide for us? Relationships that provide us with a partner that could mold us, shape us, and challenge us to be more than we thought we could be. Friendships that are deeper than a cup of coffee or lunch meeting. If we did this would 50% of our fellow countrymen report feeling lonely?  It’s not just about socializing, but about real connection, that spurs us on and introduces order not chaos into our lives. That’s what God intends for us and has wanted for us since the beginning. He wants, and we need more Genesis 1 relationships.
 Peterson, Jordan B. 12 Rules for Life. Penguin, 2018.
 Cohen, Seth. “It Is Not Good for a Person to Be Alone. – Seth Cohen – Medium.” Medium. October 05, 2018. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://medium.com/@sethacohen33/it-is-not-good-for-a-person-to-be-alone-6888a14810c1.
 “Half of Americans Feel Lonely, Study Finds.” Fortune. Accessed October 10, 2018. http://fortune.com/2018/05/01/americans-lonely-cigna-study/.