Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Soulless Nirvana

In his book, Solitude and Society, Nicholas Berdyaev makes a distinction between community and communion. Community consists of those organizations, civic and religious, which are formed to facilitate interaction between people who have something in common. Communion, in Berdayev’s scheme of things, is something deeper than community. When one speaks from the depths of one’s heart to another heart and touches a responsive chord, then, and only then, has a communion taken place.

Communities can facilitate communion or they can destroy it. Berdayev thought the most tragic situation imaginable would be a society that is organized into superficial communities in which the members, in order to avoid the agony of communion, occupy themselves totally with the trivial and commonplace and become quite content with banality and vapidity. Sound familiar? Yes, we have created the nightmarish society that Berdayev wrote about. While Berdayev, having labored in the Lord’s vineyards, now rests in the arms of the Lord, we must try to extricate ourselves from the anti-communal society we live in.

A community betrays the original ideal on which it was founded when it allows its members to affirm the idea behind the community while anesthetizing themselves from the heart of that idea. Let me use the city where I used to reside as an example: As you come into the downtown area, there is a welcome sign which proclaims that the city embraces “our traditions and our families.” Those are nice ideals. One can build something on them. But do the stated ideals of the community match the heart of the matter? Does the city really embrace tradition and families? Well, as regards tradition, the city was a predominantly white Catholic city, yet a particular Catholic nun has regularly imported black, non-Christian hoodlums into it in order to follow the dictates of her church. This is hardly in support of the city's tradition. As for families? The tax burden in the city is enormous. When coupled with the spiraling crime rate caused by the city-approved black and Mexican invasion, it is not possible to claim that the city supports families. What the stated ideal was meant to do then was to desensitize people to the fact that they lived in a community which had eliminated the possibility of any real communion of souls.

If a friendship is to be a true friendship, there must be a shared passion. And I don’t mean a passion for sailing or seafood or some other trivial pursuit; I mean a passion of the heart that contains all that a person feels about God and his fellow man. In the absence of that shared passion a friendship is only an association. Likewise a community in which the members don’t have any real communion is only an outer shell with no core.

Why would a community deliberately subvert its stated ideals and try to eradicate every communal aspect of the community? It does so for the sake of survival. If it is discovered that there is no common, shared, heartfelt passion among the members of the community, the community will fall apart. So it is much better for the survival of the community that every member of the community makes a commitment to banality and vapidity.

The Catholic Church and the mainstream Protestant churches have made the same commitment to superficiality as have our civic institutions and government, eliminating communion in order to insure the survival of community. But by doing so they have cut us off not only from our fellow men but also from God. It is only from out of the depths that we can speak to God. The psalmist did not say, “From my vapid, banal, superficial, self-satisfied being, I speak to you, O Lord.”

In theory, a man cannot live in a totally flat, soulless, vapid community, but in practice, Americans seem to have accomplished soulless nirvana. Anesthetized by blood sports, porno, and medical experts, we proudly proclaim our enthusiasm for communities without communion.

One often wants to escape the nightmare by walking through the wardrobe, but the wardrobe doesn’t ever seem to open completely. One only gets a glimpse of another world and then the wardrobe closes. But this world of ours is not the real world. The real world has depth and people crying out from those depths to the Lord God.

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