Life is a journey, and it’s not a solo one. But far more than that, along the journey and deep within the journey we find richness in relationships; those who know us intimately in a manner that can obliterate the terrifying sense of aloneness and wipe out crippling sense of meaninglessness. There’s an indefinable camaraderie in relational intimacy that lends a priceless and terribly rare sense of meaning to the journey, while infusing the journey with an often surprisingly exuberant strength as well. We need those who can share in the muddy rigors and turbulent turmoil of our journey in a manner that exponentially expands the meaning and the joy of the journey in ways we hadn’t even thought of at the outset of the journey. To journey alone is to journey to possible success. But to journey alone is to journey to success that is empty, pitifully vacant, likely isolating and therefore void of the sense of success despite the success itself.
Life is a journey, and it’s not a solo one. It’s designed for intimacy. So what’s real intimacy? Intimacy is that soul-mate kind of connection that has nothing to do with physical intimacy, but everything to do with the complexity of two human beings finding a fundamental interweaving of their corporate humanity that together renders them more than the sum of whomever or whatever they are apart. It’s the realization that I’m alone in this life as single human being whose experience is uniquely mine. Yet, I am alone in a world that affords me the opportunity of intimacy where I can take the unique experience that is mine and mine alone, and I can take the unique person that I am and connect all of that with another human being that results in the loss of none of that uniqueness whatsoever, and the gain of adding the life of another to mine, and mine to them.
Relationships enrich. They are a gift, an opportunity, the creation of a wildly imaginative God who wanted us to have everything that we are and enjoy the “everything” of another human being with the ability to have each enriched beyond measure and never diminished beyond question. Relationships expand us. But we can’t have relationships if we can’t communicate. If you take communication out of relationships, you have no relationship. Communication is essential, yet we’re losing the very ability to communicate.
Loneliness and Full In-Boxes
Loneliness is about relationships, or more fundamentally, the absence of relationships. The word “relationship” has become terribly ill-defined,or more specifically under-defined in a culture that’s consistently moving in wildly random directions at speeds that we can’t even begin to define, other than whatever speed it is it’s not fast enough.
Because of the speed that we’re relentlessly moving at, we communicate just enough to fill the informational void, get the data, plug it in, or meet some brief connective need of the moment so that we can move on to the next moment to make room for the moment that comes after that. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” The acquisition of data and the obtaining of information convey something, but that’s not communication. It does however leave us with the abysmal illusion that communication took place, yet its illusion only. We’re left with a bunch of data,but an equally large sense of aloneness.
All the while we’re attempting to connect,build relationships and maintain relationships in the snippets, sound-bites and the precariously thin threads of texting, posting on walls, blogging, connecting with our “tweets,” IM’ing, being “linked-in” and so forth. We have electronic communication that fires messages at the speed of light to devices half a world away or the cell phones hanging on our hips.
Sure, these modes of communication provide for the transmission of data. But they are not sturdy enough, sufficiently deep enough, or possess the essence of the human touch adequately enough to connect with the heart and soul of another human being. Certainly, these types of communication have their place. But they fall terribly short and are woefully inadequate in connecting the beating heart and tender spirit of one human being to another. They are crudely incapable of weaving together the fabric of two complex souls so that they can fully share in the human journey in some sort of unified partnership.
Relationships are about the degree of connectivity that we have with others. Degree implies depth; that kind of connection that’s calibrated by ever-deepening degrees of intimacy that bonds us in a cement-like fashion with another. Sure, we can have a boatload of acquaintances and we can be social butterflies that flit and flirt around a never-ending array of people in some sort of completely shallow, flirtatious dance. We can play the social games and do the various gatherings and have everyone think that we’re so wonderful and so clever and so quick and so charming and so brilliant. But that’s an orchestrated show designed to impress. In the end everyone walks away entertained and having had a rollicking good time, but with nothing other than a perpetuated sense of emptiness, wondering are there any real people out there? What that kind of thing is not is an honest interaction stripped bare by vulnerability whose sole intent is to engender nothing but intimacy with another human being who feels as empty and lonely as we do.
Communication as Critical
Communication is bridge by which two lives intersect. It’s a communion of souls, a bathing in the heart of another, a melding of two people into one while each individual stays uniquely themselves. This is not about data transmission or sharp sound-bites. It’s not about how many gigabytes we’ve used or what we used them for. Communication is the use of words, touch, body language, eye contact,actions, behaviors and so much more that are the stuff of the human soul and not transmittable by any electronic device.
Phyllis McGinley wrote, “Sticks and stones are hard on bones, aimed with angry art, words can sting like anything,but silence breaks the heart.” We can say a lot of things and make a lot of noise, but how many times is what we’re saying really nothing more than silence? How many times do we think we’re communicating and all we’re doing is conveying information? Your relationship will not survive on the conveyance of information, despite how adept you might be at doing it. Your relationship can only survive on communication. So you might be well-advised to ask if you’re conveying information and the relational silence that creates, or you’re communicating. There’s a world of difference.