The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 14: Zuckerberg hermeneutic.

Henri, Seek a New Spirituality: 

You are beginning to realize that your body is given to you to affirm your self. Many spiritual writers speak about the body as if it cannot be trusted. This might be true if your body has not come home. But once you have brought your body home, once it is an integral part of your self, you can trust it and listen to its language.

When you find yourself curious about the lives of people you are with or filled with desires to possess them in one way or another, your body has not fully come home. As soon as you have come to live in your body as a true expression of who you are, your curiosity will vanish, and you will be present to others free from needs to know, or own.

A new spirituality is being born in you. Not body denying or body indulging but truly incarnational. You have to trust that this spirituality can find shape within you, and that it can find articulation through you. You will discover that many other spiritualities you have admired and tried to practice no longer completely fit your unique call. You will begin sensing when other people’s experiences and ideas no longer match your own. You have to start trusting your unique vocation and allow it to grow deeper and stronger in you so it can blossom in your community.

As you bring your body home, you will be more able to discern with your whole being the value of other people’s spiritual experiences and their conceptualization. You will be able to understand and appreciate them without desiring to imitate them. You will be more self-confident and free to claim your unique place in life as God’s gift to you. There will be no need for comparisons. You will walk your own way, not in isolation but with the awareness that you do not have to worry whether others are pleased or not.

Look at Rembrandt and van Gogh. They trusted their vocations and did not allow anyone to lead them astray. With true Dutch stubbornness, they followed their vocations from the moment they recognized them. They didn’t bend over backward to please their friends or their enemies. Both ended their lives in poverty, but both left humanity with gifts that could heal the minds and hearts of many generations of people. Think of these two men and trust that you too have a unique vocation that is worth claiming and living out faithfully.

me:

Forgive me for my social networking-saturated cultural context, but all I can think of with this chapter is Facebook. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg, you’ve created a phenomenon that I would consider legitimately a worldview. Hermeneutics, watch out.

When you find yourself curious about the lives of people you are with or filled with desires to possess them in one way or another… When you find yourself looking through the photo albums and analyzing the comments on the FB page of that boy/girl you just met and have a crush on, kept safe in the anonymity of the Internet…

This language of possession is strong. Especially as Henri calls out our tendency for comparisons, imitations, and identifying our selves based on identifying others, he highlights this deisre to possess somebody else, to channel somebody else, as our own self.

Facebook allows this to happen with incredible ease, at the click of little buttons and the drag of a mouse. Comparisons run rampant.

With friends and strangers and enemies, the seemingly innocent glance through a profile picture album can become a war against my profile picture album. A war against my identity as portrayed on that blue and white screen – wishing that I had represented myself as more adventurous, that I had more photos from this or that angle, that I had taken more time to meticulously choose the racial diversity and ratio of friends I chose to include in my photos – so everyone discovering me online would know exactly how open and embracing I am. Ohhhhhh boy, is that unhealthy.

With fellow Christians, the tension comes with the intimidating “Religious views” question. (“Political views,” probably just as much!) Do I imitate others and give a standard, common label so I am easily identified? Do I build on my theological education background, nearly isolating myself with the particularity of a label like “postmodern, liberation-influenced, Anabaptist-rooted, contextually-cognizant, missionally-oriented, post-evangelical yet ecumenically reconciling?”

And then there are the status updates.
What two-bit soundbyte will the most fully convey the complexity of who I am? What can I say that will encapsulate my deepest identity aspects… well, not really, just the ones I want to share? What quip will be memorable, so all my ‘friends’ will not forget me? Because is that not where my identity is validated, whether people are pleased with me?

Again, ohhhhhh boy, is that unhealthy.
Thank you, Facebook, for helping giving a platform for our insecurities, image,  identity, and hopes that we can craft ourselves however we want online… Thank you for giving us a platform where they all play out. And where we can recognize them for what they are, beneath the wall feed and friendships and incessant need to perfect FarmVille.

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