Many years ago Simon & Garfunkel had a great hit “I am a Rock.” It went like this:
I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship.
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock.
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries.
In our society there are many rocks, many lonely people. Many people find themselves in isolated circumstances: a widow, someone who is divorced, a person suffering from an illness, those who find it difficult to relate to others. But increasingly in our culture there are those who choose isolation.
Samuel D. James has recently written an article “America’s Lost Boys” in which he explains that many young men play video games an average of twelve, and sometimes upwards of thirty hours per week. “The portrait that emerges of the young American male indicates an isolated, entertainment-absorbed existence with only the most childlike social ties (such as with parents and with “bros”) playing a meaningful role.” He goes on to write “in the comfort of their parents’ homes and their gaming systems, young men get to live out their fantasies without the frictions of reality.” Rather than developing meaningful relationships with others, these men choose to live largely isolated lives in a self-imposed virtual world.
While it is not unusual for adolescents to want to be left alone in their rooms sometimes, increasingly I hear of those who want to spend all of their time at home alone in their room—no doubt surrounded by computers, televisions, video games, iPhones, etc. No wonder they find personal relationships and friendships difficult.
All of us do need time on our own, but being made in the image of God means that God made us to relate to others. Wise parents will try to have some meals every week with the family around the dinner table, and encourage conversation. No doubt most of the discussion will be relatively trivial, but the art of conversation is being developed. In this way complete isolation is discouraged. The family is where we first learn how to relate in meaningful and mature ways.
This is why the church of Jesus Christ is also so important. The true church is inter-generational and multi-ethnic. There we learn to relate to people of all ages and from backgrounds very different from ourselves. This is a maturing process, and helps us to appreciate what we have in common as well as to respect different perspectives and viewpoints.
While I hope Samuel D. James is wrong in his description of “America’s Lost Boys,” I suspect that he is probably right. What a difference it would make if each of us reached out to a lonely person in our neighborhood or office or church or club. Invite them to spend time with your family or friends. They will discover that one of the great joys of life is human relationships and companionship.