For turkey day I flew down to Charlotte to spend the 4 days at my sister's new home with her new husband, and my parents and brother. I had a great time and all in all felt like it turned out as a good time of bonding with both Anna & Brian.
Loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering today. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists speak about it as the most frequently expressed complaint and the root not only of an increasing number of suicides but also of alcoholism, drug use, different psychosomatic symptoms -- such as headaches, stomachaches, and low-back pains -- and of a large number of traffic accidents. Children, adolescents, adults, and old people are in growing degree exposed to the contagious disease of loneliness in a world in which a competitive individualism tries to reconcile itself with a culture that speaks about togetherness, unity, and community as the ideals to strive for.
The roots of loneliness are very deep and cannot be touched by optimistic advertisements, substitute love images, or social togetherness. They find their food in the suspicion that there is no one who cares and offers love without conditions, and no place where we can be vulnerable without being used.
Brother Tim, a great friend and mentor throughout college, gave me a compilation of 3 books by Henri Nouwen: Ministry and Spirituality for graduation. I cracked it open and stumbled across the above excerpt, during the flight south. In recent years, I've integrated a concept of "confusion" into my worldview, as the cause of so so many problems that are too quickly attributed to malice or division. Well Nouwen single-handedly climbed my charts and got "loneliness" to vie for the top spot. They're neck and neck right now. I still think of confusion as a more fundumental source of problems, but now perceive loneliness to be one of the worst and most unfortunate symptoms of the problem, particularly on a social level.
It's been eye-opening for me, and strongly influenced my spiritual health almost immediately.