Twelve women shot in a fitness center
by a man the New York Times called
“…tortured by loneliness.”
Thirty-two victims shot at Virginia Tech
by a man the New York Times described as
“…consumed by a troubling silence.”
Thirteen people killed in a Binghamton social center
by a gunman the same newspaper labeled
“…an introvert who was secretive in the extreme.”
Murder is an extreme and thankfully rare response to excruciating loneliness. Nonetheless, while most of us do not react violently to the pain of disconnectedness, we still suffer.
We might have hundreds of friends; belong to clubs, churches or synagogues, and be at a different social engagement every night. We might even be married and still overwhelmed by the anguish of loneliness. It is not the quantity of people you know; it is the quality of the connections with them.
Being without authentic human contact does to our souls exactly what starvation does to our bodies. God created us with obvious physical needs but He also created us with spiritual needs. Connectedness with others is a spiritual necessity and being deprived of it harms us just as surely as deprivation of food.
You may well have experienced this very problem without diagnosing it. Perhaps you feel a subtle difficulty at summoning up feelings of happiness. Perhaps you feel a little depressed and can think of nothing that would make you happy. The first and most likely explanation is insufficient authentic connection with other people.
Ancient Jewish wisdom helps explain what authentic connection is. It was first achieved in that most perfect of all places, the Garden of Eden. After saying “It is not good for man to be alone,” God solved the problem by creating Eve. This powerful message reminds us that despite a unique relationship with God, Adam still was bereft without another person. In Eden , Adam and Eve shared an environment of spiritual compatibility. Their shared world-view made possible authentic connection.
But sin brought life in the Garden to an end. Their eviction from paradise left their descendants, including us, needing to build an artificial garden of shared values. Real connection is found with people with whom we share beliefs rather than interests.
After driving Adam and Eve out, God placed two Cherubs east of Eden , guarding the way to the Tree of Life. Their purpose was to protect the pathway into paradise, leaving us with an urgent question. How can those two cherubs guide us back to Eden and help banish loneliness?
If you are becoming familiar with the Torah technology I teach, you know that it is significant that we encounter the two cherubs in only one other circumstance throughout the entire Five Books of Moses. They are found upon the gold lid of the Ark of the Covenant, in Exodus 25:18 and 37:7.
Their reappearance there is the ultimate clue. The avenue back to Eden is through the Biblical blueprint contained within the box guarded by the cherubs. The same cherubs that protect the path to Eden also point the way to God’s laws contained within the ark, which provide a common framework for relationships.
This is why the cherubs never appear as individuals but only as a pair. They are the very metaphor of friendship and connection. Relationships of all types may begin based on shared interests, mutual attraction, and linked outlooks. But outside of Eden , they need additional fuel to keep them thriving.
The cherubs reveal that there is no energy source for building relationships comparable to that which results from jointly studying God’s word.
Instead of frantically seeking crowds of friends, build spiritual compatibility with a chosen few. Sharing how your day went with a spouse, child, grandchild or friend is valuable; but may I suggest that, whether you are in one location or across the continent from each other, reading and discussing a Thought Tool together is priceless. This is why we created an attractive 170 page book of fifty Thought Tools. Is there someone with whom you’d like a closer connection? Send them a copy of Thought Tools 2008 and set a weekly date to discuss a chapter. One of my prayers was that this book would be a source of nourishing precious relationships. I hope it does that for you.