I realized something was wrong with the way I think when a woman at the Sabido vigil was nearly in tears, lamenting that she has been working too hard in her graduate school studies and has not been helping other people or spending enough time with Rosa, the Mexican national who had been living in sanctuary as an ICE fugitive at a Methodist church for 600 days.
She used to devote herself to helping others, she said, but apparently had lapsed in her ways.
I couldn’t understand why this young woman was so upset with herself. I typically don’t care about anyone but me. I don’t know if that is a side effect of being a reporter and feeling like I am not allowed to participate in the community that I am covering, or that journalism is the only form of community service I was allowed to perform. Or living alone and only thinking about making enough food for myself, providing for myself, playing video games when I want, rarely if ever thinking about calling a friend or being around other humans in my free time. I can do everything myself. Except be happy.
Eknath Easwaran says that’s the wrong way to live and I believe him. He writes:
I am told that people now want to be loners and live by themselves. If you ask why, they will say it is more convenient; they can do what they want, when they want, in the way they want. When they shuffle in the door from work, tired and edgy, they don’t need to concern themselves with squabbling children; they can kick off their shoes and drop their clothes anywhere. … All this is called freedom. I call it sterility and the surest road to making ourselves more separate and self-willed.
Ouch, man. That’s exactly how I live — in sterility — and it will take time to change that behavior and outlook on life. How can I unlearn my habit of being self-willed and understand that it is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved if I am always alone?
I’m reminded of a Desmond Tutu quote: “A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.”
When I stay in my apartment with video games and marijuana and darkness and isolation, I feel less and less humanlike, more robotic as I interface with screens all day.
A toxic thought crept into my mind when I was out for a walk a few weeks ago. My brain pondered the concept of making a friend. Of meeting a like minded man or woman and spending time together, maybe invite them over to my apartment to do… what? Hang out and watch TV? Talk? What do people do?
I immediately thought that that was the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. How weird that would be, to make a friend and spend time together. Then my brain told me that it was exceedingly weird to think that making a friend is exceedingly weird.
At least I’m checking those thoughts and recognizing that I need to change. That’s the first step in this process, I think.