Finding Each Other Again

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.” 

Wendell Berry

I saw a commercial recently that showed people making bets on their phones. Not just on which team will win the game–but on whether the quarterback will complete his next pass–which team will score next.

You can bet on anything. And you can’t lose the first bet. Risk-free! But many people will find it difficult to stop after just one try. The commercial’s sponsor is counting on it.

Some drugs are more than chemicals we take into our bodies.

Some are experiences that release chemicals in our brains–chemicals we want to feel again.

The desire becomes a compulsion that is addiction.

For some, it’s food. For others, the images of pornography. Or that thrill of winning a bet. Or an actual chemical teeming through our lungs or veins into our brain.

We act alone. We can’t let others know our secret shame–what we consume, bodily or visually. What we do with the rent money.

And even if we act with others, the result is the same. We find ourselves alone in our satisfaction–and then in our dissatisfaction and shame.

We believe we can find satisfaction by rearranging the chemicals inside ourselves.

What’s changed is that society more than ever allows us to embrace whoever we decide we are or want to be–without moral limitations.

Opportunities to be whatever we want are both growing and shrinking.

They are shrinking in that it is more difficult to find work that we find meaningful. Part of that is that we have lost the sense that honorable work is meaningful even if we don’t enjoy it.

On the other hand, the notion grows that our opportunities to act on our impulses should be limitless. We can be who we want to be in our desires. Opportunities to choose any form of expression–especially sexually– abound.

But that free expression doesn’t provide the meaning and significance we seek. It backfires.

Someone in my area went to a local agency to ask for help with his pornography obsession.

He heard this response: “It’s normal to look at porn.”

He knew he had a problem. He acknowledged the problem. He was asking for help with his problem.

Imagine going to an AA meeting and hearing, “But it’s normal to drink. Go ahead.”

More of us find our lives “intolerably painful or dull” today.

More of us seek a life beyond pain and dullness and manipulations of our brain that further remove us from reality.

Social agencies that buy into the lies of unreality as a balm for the soul are not the solution.

The Church has the solution.

Are we prepared to deliver it to the hurting?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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