Loneliness is a common but unwelcome epidemic in our present age unlike any other. Everyone is too busy pursuing their own personal matters and little wonder so many highfliers abound in our generation. And with the increasing sophistication of Information and communication technology, ICT, the world is radically exiting from the fringes of reality to the ‘virtual world’ with so many of us becoming more at home with the illusions of a virtual world. Granted that the benefits of ICT are enormous, however no true alternative can be found that will fill the void that only face-to-face human interactions can fill. We can chat all-day on yahoo messenger, msn, AOL, meebo, Google chat, hi5 and the ubiquitous and addictive facebook; but without a doubt, a heart-to-heart chat does a deeper and lasting miracle in the human soul. Through the power of the internet, online real time communication has become common place and no longer a phenomenal thing to the modern city dweller. And I have tremendously benefited from the miracle of ICT through which my voice has been ferried across oceans and rivers, mountains and rocky hills to the ears and hearts of cherished family members and friends in far-flung regions of the world. There still and moving pictures stare at me from my PC’s monitor, and through video calls and webcams, I ‘see’ and hear them speak to me ‘live’.
But I would still prefer to see them face-2-face. I would like to embrace, hug and snuggle around them if need be. I would like to lean on the strength of their strong shoulders when my body frame has grown frail and weak. I would like to feel their tender touch and that look of acceptance when deferred hopes and dreams have shattered the clay pot where my dreams and ego are being preserved. I would like to look into their eyes and be consumed by the flames of love that emanate from them. I would like to hear them call my name, especially those endearing names that they used to woo me to come and hug them as a toddler. I would love my now-turned ‘virtual friends’ to tease and assail me with embarrassing jokes and teases. I would like to hear them call me my teenage nickname, “Jerry Renton” so I can holler back at them and say ‘ Bobos wozoputukwanu? .wetin dey shelee 4 ya side now?” I would love to exchange banters with them and snap each other’s palms when our favorite team scores ‘it is a goooooaaaalllll!”
These are some of the human side of life that the internet and advanced ICT have connived to deprive us of. Though the ICT revolution has enhanced our quality of life and speed of communication, but it has been at a major human interest cost. Now some doctors and therapists have become experts in the treatment and management of internet addiction. The internet provides us a theater where all our suppressed and repressed fantasies, illusions and idiosyncrasies can assert their freedom of expressions. Pseudonyms can help to hide our true identity on our blog, but our personality still stays with us when all the façade has been yanked off from our virtual faces. Why do we feel so uninhibited in our expressions on the net yet hold back and embrace a kind of hypocritical lifestyle when we step into the human-to-human interface. Are we too afraid to release our true selves from the bondage of self-slavery when we relate with our fellow beings? Why are we so afraid to disagree with others, and too wary to not swallow their ideas of who we should be and not who we really were created to be by God? Are we so hungry for their affirmations that we dread their disapproving glance and stare, especially when we make attempts to become our freed-selves? We should know that we can disagree with other’s attempt to compartmentalize and categorize us, but we can agree with them when the focus is on the common good!
We might live in a postmodern age characterized by individualism and assertive self-independence, but are we better off without each other? When we network with others at business dinners and corporate lunch, we ostensibly seem to only seek for potential clients that will feed into our dreams of self-actualization; of our individual whims and caprices. We oftentimes succeed at the expense of others for when one person wins recklessly, he/she rises up the notch of accomplishment possibly because another had failed where he/she succeeded. We then build a castle over our accomplishments and successes that others might burn incense in obeisance to the erected self-god that loves to be worshipped by all and sundry. Though our individuality and self-affirmation has its merits, we need to be careful to not let its demerits swallow the joy of community. And the fiery press and push of the forces of globalization have made many realize the futility of erecting individual empires that attempt to dwarf community. Mergers and acquisitions, economic bail outs and all have made us see how much we need each other to succeed in real life.
The global events of late have somewhat made us become more disentangled from the grips of selfish pursuits and to become more intertwined as the community humanity. Many may not accent to this but they would be shocked to realize how the races of the earth are growing into the true species called ‘humanity’; a community of human beings created to inhabit ,cultivate and protect the earth. When bombs explode in New York, morbid fear grips many across the world. When earthquake buries thousands in China, the powerlessness and vulnerability of fiery regimes become glaring to all. When floods swallow and engulf highlands and cause ‘mountain slides’ in South America, our helplessness stares rudely at our ego and self-pride. When terrorists bombard trains in London, or attack hundreds with assault rifles at Mumbai India, we recognize the homogeneity of human blood and its elements. That is one reason why the world could downplay the import of race to get caught up in the celebratory dancing that was elicited by Obamania, amidst the economic crises at Wall Street and across the world. We are one- humanity when we inadvertently rejoice with those that rejoice, or mourn with those that mourn. In one of Ben Okafor’s songs, he wailed in a deep lament;
“I am not because I am; I am just because we are
For those who make you suffer, do me wrong.”
When we can learn to exit from the cocoon of self, and become consumed by the desire for humanity’s common good, we would become more aligned in such a manner that the resources and forces of good become not only accessible, but also amenable to us for the achievement of things that guarantee our corporate benefit. But the drive towards this point of common good starts with a journey into ourselves where we understand through introspection that life is truly not about us as specific individuals. For when we die and drop out of the rat race of life, the world continues after the tears of loved ones have all dried up, leaving only vestiges of who we were or what we meant to them in their memories. This inward journey prepares us for the outward journey from the clutches of self, till we become ‘lost’ in the sea of humanity. We can then join forces with selfless-others to bring true and enduring benefits to our world.
The young Jewish Rabbi, Yeshua Hamashea lived for others and taught his followers this principle of laying down one’s life for the good of others. He made them see the benefits of living for the good of others. He taught them the principle of ‘oneness’, expressed as unity in spite of the diversities of our personalities and backgrounds. This unity becomes the premise and precondition upon which answers to their prayers would be answered by God. But before oneness of humanity can be realized, people need to first of all learn to bond at the heart level with each other in pairs of two as emphasized by the rabbi in his speeches: “.if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My father in heaven. For when two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The power that two united-at-heart individuals can muster for common good is inestimable. They can generate divine power that can bring healing and restoration to the individual and the community at large. But this is predicated upon the depth and intensity of agreement between them. I have experienced the miracle of agreement between two people when they pray together. About a decade ago, a close medical doctor friend bared his heart to me on a particularly stubborn fungal infection that had ravaged his body for a long time, which had defied all known prescription drugs. He couldn’t bare his trunk even during the hot season before fellow guys due the embarrassment it caused him. As prayer partners, we held hands together and ‘agreed’ that the skin disease should disappear. It was a quiet but affirmative prayer we had made without any gymnastics, and trusting that God will hear us and respond as fast as possible. A couple of weeks later, I visited him again and was bewildered when he stripped his shirt to show me that the skin lesions and rashes from the chronic fungal infection had disappeared. As a medical-doctor-turned pastor he could see that this healing was divinely orchestrated, having exhausted all remedies and drug therapies recommended by his dermatology consultants while in medical school. And the process that started this miracle was the mere holding of hands, that symbolized the bonding of two willing hearts in agreement with each other, and trusting that God will answer us.and indeed he answered ‘in a jiffy’!
We really can’t imagine what potential resources are available to us for the good of all, when we begin to make efforts to agree in principle with one another. Disagreements only lead to chaos when one loses sight of the whole and bigger picture, the community of humanity. For when we love our neighbours as ourselves like Jesus Christ had taught and practiced, we would hardly chuckle at their misfortunes and failures, but will be moved with empathy to give a helping hand. And when we love and care for others genuinely, and do unto them as we’d love them do to us, then have we begun the journey of oneness of brethren which the writer of Psalm 133 described as being like the fresh dew over Mount Hermon, and as fragrant as the precious and sacred oil that was used to anoint the first Jewish High Priest, Aaron.