The general philosophy of our culture has drifted, well more like a free jumped, into an individualism that not even Nietzsche could have predicted. Though the guilty parties may not just be the usual suspects of those sinister existentialist Europeans. Surely John Stuart Mill and other mainstream red blooded Americans pushed the glories of individualism. Afterall, what hardcore church going conservative doesn’t love to brag about the ‘rugged individualism’ upon which this country was founded!?
There were many wonderful blessings to humanity that were afforded by this elevation of the individual over community. Yet our journey toward extreme individualism is beginning to crack the walls of reasonable thought and will have dire consequences for its adherents. We have now reached a point where many believe so strongly in individualism that nothing else matters. Despite living in the self proclaimed age of science, the disbelief in a concrete and universal reality outside of oneself has propelled many Westerners to trust only in themselves when it comes to determining reality or ideas like right or wrong. Fortunately this has not been applied to 4 way stops. not yet.
While many individualists tout our progression and call it liberating, the belief in an individual’s ability to determine her own reality is quite old. Gorgias of Leontini (4-5th cen. b.c.) first established the progressive philosophy – 1. nothing exists, 2. even if something exists, nothing can be known about it, if it something can be known about it, nothing can be communicated about it. Does that sound like plenty of people you meet on the street? There is after all nothing new under the sun.
This philosophy has been called ‘solipsism’, based on the latin word ‘solus’ meaning ‘alone.’ And alone is what a disciple of solipsism will feel! As we have attempted to ‘free’ mankind from the oppression of objective truth and societal norms, we have simultaneously imprisoned him in a cell fit for only one . “you don’t know me” concludes all arguments.
While people are certainly being freed from external pressures and definitions are they not also growing more alone? Might the grave increase of suicide in our country be attributed to this feeling. No one understands. No one knows me. No one can really be my friend. The journey of existentialism pop culture has enjoyed only ends in out right nihilism as those first pioneers discovered. nothingness. so have fun with that.
The Bible may not be an existentialist manifesto but it certainly gets it the idea. The preacher who preached Ecclesiastes was way ahead of the game. The New Testament depicts man as lost and living in darkness, unable to conclude even basic empirical realities because of his inward bend.
Jesus came for lonely people. He came for those who know what the consequence of selfish actions feel like. He gave water to the woman alone at the well. He fed the Canaanite mother alone and desperate. He even chose the Tax collector, matthew, whom everyone in town avoided, to be his disciple. No one came to Jesus. He went to them, walked through their little prison, and brought them to Himself and into a community!
How ironic that He who brought lonely people together found himself alone on the cross even crying out the ultimate existentialist mantra: My God why have you forsaken me! Yet He did it happily with all His life for you and me and all of us who are born desiring to look inward and be alone. In Jesus we are not only brought back to the Father, but to the family of former lonely people. We don’t have to be alone!
How sad that some christians reject community and convince themselves its just as fine to commune with God in the woods, the old man fighting to be alone. Meanwhile our Lord throws a party for the lost Son, who was once dead but is now alive! Come and enjoy the fatted calf, the fellowship of believers, the end of loneliness!