Social Faith

Posted by: Richenda at Monday February 26, 2007 in

I was thinking about meaning…

(Question: What is it about staying up all night that makes people ponder the meaning of life?)

…about the meaning of life, actually. As in, what’s it all about?

And so I thought perhaps ‘Life’ is all about the end goal, about the final transformation and ascension. But, then, what about the ‘here and now’? As in, what is the purpose of our _lives_—the breathing, walking, sweating, loving, virus-seeping part of it. The Coptic Hermits believed the sole purpose of life was to live as if they were already dead and so remain pure, their eyes constantly on the next place. That was a long time ago, but there are still contemplative orders today.

And all power to them! A life spent in readiness for what’s next makes sense. Especially considering the great capacity human beings have for evil. Humility and quietude keeps us focused on the good, and mindfully recognizes that Earth is not some profane, free-for-all playground where we can just indulge our every pulsing wish. But…

(Note to self: There’s always a ‘but….’)

But…if we’re asking ‘what is the meaning of life‘ then I think we can’t just cast our eyes heavenward and squat prayerfully in the dirt. If we want to understand life then at some point we have to deal with the part where we are alive.

I read a Duke University study that said that Americans have fewer friends than ever, only two friends each. How did we all get so lonely? Even the Coptic Hermits had disciples and followers and even other hermits in the next cave over. And recluses and anchorites, who might wall themselves up in a brutal form of solitude, in fact relied heavily on a hefty number of people to help care for them. The rich simply retired to a back room with servants to buffer them from the world. The
poor sealed themselves into little compartments near the church or some holy place and essentially threw themselves on the mercy of their communities. They needed other people to think of them, to feed and clothe them, to remember them on wet, icy mornings, and to pass bread and water through the grate.

A hermit, then, in ‘retiring from the world’ may have made the ultimate gesture of spiritual faith, but, in becoming a hermit, they made the ultimate act of social faith,
as well. For the hermit trusted their very survival to those around them, hoping others would invest in their care and maintenance.

Social faith. It’s a foreign concept in 2007.

Where is our social faith today? I wonder—what actions do we take while we are alive that are meaningful in the moment those acts are performed? To whom does it matter that we existed; to whom does it matter that we spent a moment of life with them. You have to leave the bank book and the SUV and the new cherry cabinets behind. But, I think, what you can take with you are the
moments you have lived in such a way that others have lived, too.

Personal courage is required, I think. You have to be willing to be vulnerable. We have to reach out.

Question is…how do we do that? Me and my two friends don’t really know.

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