alone in the crowd

Posted on September 2, 2012


We live in a society of isolation…

There are times in life that we need help. Times that without someone by our side, we could not continue. There are times when we are drowning in despair; gasping for our last breath, hoping for mercy, hoping that help might come.

The problem is this: when a person is drowning, they cannot push the “pause button”, step out and run find help. We are unable to pull out our cell phone and call our “help” list. This total isolation from despair is like drowning. Unless someone happens by (out of luck) or unless someone is watching out for us (out of intentional community), we do not survive.

Sometimes the result is literal death, immediate or long term (the result of stress related health problems), and sometimes it is falling over the cliff of self medication that ends up in a whole myriad of addictions that are almost as impossible to come back from as death. My neighborhood is full of people living on the edge of drowning from addictions, poverty, abuse, violence, homelessness…

And yet we are so busy building and maintaining our little temporal kingdoms, preventing them from decay, trying to make them last forever, that we forget we are here on earth together for a reason… TO BE TOGETHER!!!

Why are people drowning in our neighborhoods and we don’t even know? Why can’t we see beneath the surface to their pain and despair? Do we look? The first step in “seeing” is to look… without turning away. My natural tendency when caught up in the “rat race” is to quickly turn away from the pain and suffering, the loss and despair all around me. There just is not time to pay attention to what’s going on around me. Such behavior will make me slow down. If I slow down, will I lose a grip on my “stuff” that I must maintain? Gotta go go go. That’s how the “rat race” works.

Heaven forbid I experience the “human race” while here on earth.

Heaven forbid that I connect to people and spend time with them.

Heaven forbid that I see those that are drowning and come to them at just the right time.

Heaven forbid that I denounce my own privacy, my personal peace and affluence, for others.

Heaven forbid that I cease to worship my gods of comfort and security for the sake of others.

Heaven forbid that we set aside our own personal agendas to see what we are here for.

Are we not all here on earth together to BE TOGETHER? If we are only here to work out our own personal salvation with fear and trembling, in isolation, should we have not been distributed each to our own planets throughout the universe to do our own thing?

If we listen to our hearts, we will hear what we already know. We are all connected at the deepest level. When we live in isolation, we are denying our very soul, our very creation; we nullify our very existence here on earth.

When are we going to wake up?

I am calling to you though the flames.

Do you see me?

Can you hear me?

In South Africa, there is a way of living, a way of seeing life, that honors the soul of each person at a very deep level called Ubuntu. The expression of this deep connection, built on relationships with each other, is seen even in its greeting.

The greeting:

Sawubona: “I see you”

Ngikhona: “I exist because I am seen”

umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: a person is a person through other persons

I am . . . because we are

‎”What every single human being longs for, at the deepest level, is to be seen for who they are.” (Sarita Chawla)

“God comes to us in the midst of human need, and the most pressing needs of our time demand community in response. How can I participate in a fairer distribution of resources unless I live in a community, which makes it possible to consume less? How can I learn accountability unless I live in a community where my acts and their consequences are visible to all? How can I learn to share power unless I live in a community where hierarchy is unnatural? How can I take the risks which right action demands, unless I belong to a community which gives support? How can I learn the sanctity of each life unless I live in a community where we can be persons not roles to one another?

(Parker Palmer, 1977; as quoted in Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk Through The Quaker Tradition)

“The Quaker teacher Douglas Steele was fond of saying that the ancient human question ‘Who am I?’ leads inevitably to the equally important question ‘Whose am I?’ – for there is no selfhood outside of relationship.” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)

“…Individualistic material progress and the desire to gain prestige by coming out on top have taken over from the sense of fellowship, compassion and community. Now people live more or less on their own in a small house, jealously guarding their goods and planning to acquire more, with a notice on the gate that says, ‘Beware of the Dog.”
— Jean Vanier (Community and Growth)

”Since our earliest ancestors gathered in circles around the warmth of a fire, conversation has been our primary means for discovering what we care about, sharing knowledge, imagining the future, and acting together to both survive and thrive.” (Juanita Brown, The World Cafe)

‎”‘I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again.’ I still believe this. I still believe that if we turn to one another, if we begin talking with each other – especially with those we call stranger or enemy – then this world can reverse its darkening direction and change for the good.” (Margaret Wheatley)

“Everybody is half-dead. Everybody avoids everybody, all over the place, in most situations, most all the time. I know; I’m one of those ‘everybodys.’ And, to me, it’s terrible. And so all I’m trying to do, all the time, is just open people up so they…let themselves be open to somebody else. That is all. That’s it.” -Nina Simone

‎”Speak directly from your heart to the heart of your listener, as if passing the flame of a candle.” (Philip Toshio Sudo)

‎”If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.” (Andrew Harvey)

“Is it possible to become more intentional about creating spaces—in relationship, in community—where our fearful shadows can emerge into the light to be seen for what they are, where the truth and love within us can appear and make a claim on our lives?” (Parker Palmer)