One of the tragic ironies of our modern compulsion towards self definition, is that our lives have become at once more dependent upon others than at any time in history, whilst our Self proclaimed Independence is at an all time high. Everything tells us that we are the self authenticating authors of our own existence. Thus, perhaps more than ever, we live in the age of the primal sin against our neighbour, whose life has nothing to do with ours. [The late Oliver Sacks noted, the gift of aging and mortality was a necessary corrective to such a view, but we do all we can to deny either of these ‘neighbours’ . . .]
The first act of the human set free from obedience to the Author of Life is to kill his brother. It would not be too presumptuous to suggest that Cain’s questioning of Elohim, ‘am I my brothers keeper?’ is merely the voicing of the ‘thought’ which accompanied the slaying of Abel. For it is from the heart that things that defile come . . .
Whilst this condition is universal – modern existence seems to have refined its cruelty to a twisted art form – so much so that perversely we tell ourselves that we cannot love our neighbours as ourselves, ‘until we love ourselves’ [I respond to this Lie here]
The insight of the Church Fathers ‘My life is with my brother’, seems to have been all but expunged, which is a monstrous Delusion, and one which will not go un’rewarded’.
So, this morning, I rose from a bed I did not make, to put on clothes the provenance of which I have little or no idea, made by people for whom I have no thought. I sat down to bread baked by a local baker, but drink coffee grown on land and using water which may well be put to better use feeding those many who live nearby. If I use my car later in the day, I will have no idea of the detrimental impact its production made on the lives of probably hundreds if not thousands of others as Land was excavated, oil was burnt, and rivers were polluted.
We read that even in our post industrial societies people are dying in their thousands annually because of the pollution we cause. But we are of course post industrial societies. In the midst of our ‘Individuality’ driven consumption, most of the deaths are of those in China, India and other places to which we have exported our ‘Dark, Satanic mills’ with their accompanying choking smog. (And comfort ourselves with the decptive thought that ‘human ingenuity will find a solution’ – which I am sure must be a great comfort to the bereaved . . .) So we live with the myth of the Individual whilst our lives are inextricably linked with many many others whom we do not recognise as our brother
Yet here is the great irony – in the age of the myth of Self Independence, we have been reduced to the state of almost total Dependency upon others.
The nursing homes and care wards of ‘advanced nations’, are but the revelation of what we have become. For were it not for the labour of others, if it were not for their economic servitude, we wouldn’t last five minutes. How many of us grow anything which we eat, let alone enough to feed ourselves and share with others? How few of us could? How many of us actually rely on others to chop our vegetables, or indeed cook our food for us? How few of us have made anything which we rely upon, or have the skills to do so? What moment of our very existence is not related to The Other?
How many of us are in truth no more Independent, than someone in an advanced state of dementia, the presenting symptom of this virtual age?
We proclaim our Independence, our Coming of Age as human beings, at a time when if anything our very existence has regressed to a level never before seen. As our neighbour has disappeared, ironically our capacity for life has all but vanished with him. Nihilism and Narcissism are of course but two sides of the same coin . . .
David Runcorn in one of his books relates the story of a time of retreat in an alpine hut. After a few days of solitude he found himself crying to God, ‘Who Are You?’ And in a moment of silent Apocalypse heard back the Interrogation ‘Who are you?’
This is the question Moses puts to the LORD at the burning bush, only to be replied to with the enigmatic and unhelpful reply ‘I AM’. Only God is self existent – indeed only God IS. We are at best ‘becomings’ and that only in enduring and suffering Love for God and neighbour. Not one of us can say ‘I AM’, but to this present age that seems to be nonsense, blasphemy indeed . . .
‘that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
Pray for me, a sinner also