Monday, October 27, 2014

Lonely Solipsists

"The Creator surely made this world too large. This is inconvenient for us small, fearful humans. For all the world’s vastness, we can’t measure the distance between ourselves. There’s six billion of us, yet still…everyone is all alone."
 -Kou Ichinomiya from Arakawa Under the Bridge
I've often heard it said that man is a "social creature", and I agree. Man was by no means created to be a lone-wolf or a hermit in perpetual solitude. One of his deepest needs and desires is to have close relationships with other humans. In order to mature and learn, he needs those who will come alongside him, building him up and joining him in this grand marathon of life. In his deepest being, he requires the friendship of his fellow man. And even more importantly than friendship itself, he requires a helper, a lifelong companion with whom he has the most intimate of all relationships (so intimate in fact that the Scripture declares it to be the uniting of two persons into one).

When the Lord created the world, all was good as He was creating it. The stars dotting the skies were good, the dry land was good, the hills and the valleys were good, the great beasts of the field and birds of the air, from the fragile beauty of the lilies to the awesome might of the supernovas, all things were good. 

And then He created a man, named Adam. And for the first time in the history of the world, something was not good. Did God make a mistake? Of course not. Nevertheless, something was not good. Out of all things God created, the only thing that was not good was the loneliness of man. Man was alone, without human relationship, and specifically without a life-companion. It was this status of loneliness that was not good, and this alone.

Therefore, God created the woman from man's own body, and brought her to Adam to be his wife. Hence the first and most important inter-human relationship was realized. No longer was man alone, a solitary spirit left to wander and work the Earth for all eternity. Now, the Lord God could say that everything He had made was good. But not only was it good, it was very good.

Several thousand years after this declaration of the super-goodness of the world, mankind is once again alone. As was said above, there is an innate distance between us all*, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot bridge the gaps between us. There are billions of us, and yet we are each living in solitude.

How is this possible?

Ever since man fell, it has been his nature to be a practical solipsist.** Man in himself is a selfish creature, and tends to see himself and his own welfare as the primary purpose of life. Even the wisest of us must fight the tendency to seek after his own interests rather than seeking after the interests of others.

And therein lies the problem. Intimacy in a relationship requires love. The more you love someone, and the higher the form of love, the deeper is your relationship. Of course, a relationship is not a one-way street, and no matter how much you love someone else, you may still be held at arm's length away from them if they do not love you in return. Nevertheless, a relationship is based upon love for one another at its core.

God declared in His Word that love is not self-seeking/self-centered. Rather it is self-sacrificing. Instead of asking others to give something up for your sake, love demands that you give all of yourself up to others without even considering the idea of getting something in return.

In our flesh, there is no good thing. Love (which is the highest of all that is good) is foreign to man's fallen nature, and when love is found anywhere (be it in Mother Theresa, an atheist husband to his wife, or from St. Paul to the Corinthian Church), it is by the grace of God. Again, we are practical solipsists by nature, and we tend to live for ourselves.

This is where our loneliness comes from. Being truly alone when you are in the midst of billions of other souls requires that you be forced into literal, physical solitude, that you be separated from all persons that love you, or that you be spiritually confined in a mental prison of your own making.

For most of us, and in most circumstances, we live in a prison in our minds. By our selfishness, we separate ourselves from the rest of our fellow man, living unto ourselves. We walk down the crowded streets, go from store to store, house to house, school to school, always seeking for someone who will bridge the gap and release us from our solitude. The longer we are left alone, the more desperate we become. We take lover after lover, throwing aside each when they don't fulfill that desire which we have (hence the rise in the divorce rate). In their mad search for someone with whom there will be no distance, some give in to despair and end their lives. 

And the loneliness continues on. Man as a whole has still not been able to end their spiritual confinement. For all their vain striving, the answer to their problem is simple: love the Lord with all your being, and love your fellow man as much as you do yourself. And this love comes only from a complete sacrifice of yourself unto God and the good of others.

*Note: I am speaking of the fallenness of mankind and the brokenness of his relationships. By the grace of God, some relationships still grant men the closeness that they inherently need with others (for example, there are even happy and close marriages among the most avid atheists). Nevertheless, man's relationships have been fully ravaged by the consequences of sin, and unless the Lord mitigates this problem, they render each man alone in this world. 

**By solipsist, I mean the person that believes their mind (or whatever they consider to be the core of their selfhood) is the only reality, and that all things which seemingly exists outside their minds are merely outward representations of their minds. Thus he believes that he is the only thing that truly exists. I am not referring to all persons who hold to any form of philosophical solipsism.

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