3 Feb

“We’re connected, Brad. It’s all the blanket.”

I Heart Huckabees. It’s a true story,you know. Or rather it’s true stories.

We are all connected. In brutal, furious, life-giving ways.

I haven’t torched anyone’s jet skis, but I have had that moment where the person who infuriates me the most becomes me. My face is there in front of me and I’m yelling at myself for how inconsiderate/ignorant/prideful/hurtful/insert-negative-attribute-here I am.

Yet, we’re very resistant to the idea of interconnectedness because in our country (and in many places) it speaks too clearly of interdependence.

And we love to believe in autonomy. Love to be self-sufficient.

But in fact, we’re relational. [Old hat, yeah yeah. I know. It is old hat. But give me a second.]

I first understood this in definitive, applicable terms though a concept I heard Don Miller use in a lecture/sermon about a year ago.

Compare yourself to a character in a story. When you examine your life, the things you do, the fabric of your life, is it a good story? Would people read about you? Are you a hero? Are you even a protagonist?

Those are big questions. [Feel free to pause now and answer them for yourself.]

But taking it another direction, the way stories are written illustrates the truth of the interconnectedness of life. A character is defined through his/her interactions with other people. Unless you have a narrator or utilize inner-monologues, the reader has no idea what a character is thinking or feeling at all. It only matters what he does. His actions literally speak louder than words because it’s all he has. A character in a story can’t claim she loves someone and not show us through what she does.

We take this for granted in stories. But rarely do we accept it in life.

I’m currently reading The Book of Other People. The idea behind it was that each author would come up with a character and write a story about him/her/it. The title of each story is the character’s name.

But as I read I noticed something happening. Sometimes we didn’t even meet the title character until a few pages in. Often times the story wasn’t told from the title character’s perspective. Sometimes the title character really wasn’t who I felt for the most.

What happened?

Interconnectedness. The stories aren’t just descriptions of the title character; they aren’t personal propaganda. The created characters interact with other created characters and it’s in this physical and linguistic dialogue that we understand what’s really going on. This is how it must be. Because it’s how life is.

In “Soleil” Gabrielle shows us Soleil through her eleven-year-old eyes. And even then she wouldn’t be fully understood without the characters of Gabrielle’s mother and father or her friend Katy. These stories are full of characters that cannot exist in any meaningful way without orbiting around others.

But an even higher hurdle is another concept, one that seems to treat the concepts of life-as-a-story and our-interconnected-nature as mere jumping off points. [Which is scary.]

It may be that we not only find meaning and fulfillment in our relationships with others, but that we in fact find ultimate meaning in ensuring for others what we seek to ensure for ourselves, meaning I’m not only connected to you in a peripheral, objective way, but I’m connected to you in a deep, spiritual way.

And how I treat you affects me. And how you treat me affects you.

Examined in long-view, this concept says I’ll never be at my best until you are at yours. And you’ll never reach an understanding of who you are until you learn to understand who I am.

This is a deeply profound, deeply disturbing way to think of things.

It throws our ingrained desire for independence and autonomy in our faces. It even says something about our founding ideals of liberty and freedom. And it sure as hell challenges the current myth of self-realization through achievement and strong will.

And again, I don’t get it. I’m not sure what living this way looks like. But I’ll give it a try. Because nothing I’ve seen, heard, or read leads me to believe there isn’t truth in this idea.

So hello. What do you want to talk about?

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