Moving from Creature to Communion
A recent article in the Guardian speaks nicely to one of our goals at First Things Foundation. In it, author George Monbiot delves into anthropology. What does it mean to be a human being? Of all the good points this one stands out for me:
Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these... structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.
Monbiot is on to something. Individualism creates wealth. It has done so. This is not a debate. Look around. But, like a Faustian bargain our total and utter reimagining of the human soul has ushered in a life destroying spirit. There’s a demon in them thar riches.
For me that demon is recognizable. I live with it daily. Most of us do. It is the ego demon, the voice in my head that says I am my own. But that voice, the one turned up to eleven by marketing wizards and pop culture warriors, it must be quelled. It is unnatural. We humans are an ecstatic reality. We know ourselves by the love of others. We become human when we move from creature to communion. And that communion must be with all of creation. As Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th century Christian theologian, states:
“The Creator formed man as a second cosmos, a great universe within a little one."
Could it be? Is it possible that we contain within us everything that is?
We think so. And that is one reason we try and share in the poverty of those we aim to assist; their suffering is already ours.