Something that’s caught my attention in the news in the last while, is the decision by Parks Canada to install Wi-fi hotspots in most of Canada’s national parks beginning this summer.
So now, in places that used to be thought of as untouched, pristine nature sanctuaries, to which any one of us can escape in unvarnished solitude, severing all connections to the outside world, these national parks are now being “invaded” by the internet.
Now – to be clear – I like the internet. I like wi-fi. I like my iphone.
But I also recognize the incredible distraction mobile devices can be.
That’s why, for example, in confirmation classes, we had a rule that mobile devices had to be put away.
Same applies for you at school.
Similar reason why some are against this idea of allowing wi-fi in national parks: there seems to be no limit to the proliferation of distraction by our mobile devices.
But, I’m not wanting to get into debating the pros and cons of the explosion of mobile devices, or of wi-fi, or the Parks Canada initiative.
What I do want to say about this, is, with or without the internet, how interconnected we all are; how we as human beings are made or wired for community, for relationships.
If anything, mobile connectivity with the internet has underscored for us again – in a new and modern way (albeit not perfect) – that as human beings, we are inescapably linked with others in a web of relationships.
And not only that, but this web of relationships – with our moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and grandparents – makes us who we are; it shapes, influences and molds us into the individual human beings that we are.
There is no such thing as a completely isolated human being.
Even though much of our culture idealizes the mythology of the “rugged individual”, the “captain of one’s own fate”, the “lone ranger superman hero,” the “I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own” ideal, the reality is, these notions are just that: mythology, and fantasy, totally disconnected from reality.
The reality is: we as individuals are wired for community, for relationships.
We are who we are, because of other people.
The South African culture has a Zulu expression: “Ubuntu,” which roughly translates as: “a person is a person because of other people.”
A common greeting, the equivalent of “hello” in English, is the expression: “sawu bona” which means “I see you.” I really see you.
The typical reply to that is “sikhona” which translates: “I am here.”
“I see you.” “I am here.”
The order of this exchange is significant.
It means: “Until you see me, I do not exist. When you see me, you bring me into existence.”
It is in really seeing each other, in really acknowledging each other’s presence, that we come to know ourselves.
When we consider ourselves through the eyes of others, from others’ perspectives, and in the process of interacting with others, we ourselves, as individuals, come to know ourselves, who we really are.
We’re brought into being.
We are who we are, because of other people.
Scientists have discovered some interesting things about how our brains work, and how the brain too is wired for relationships, community, inter-connectedness.
Studying MRI scans of the brain, scientists have observed the release of certain chemicals in the brain as a result of outside stimuli, namely, the outside stimuli of other people – the emotional impact other people have on us.
In other words, in relating with others, parts of the brain are activated, releasing those chemicals, thereby affecting us personally, individually, in different ways.
Our brain synapses fire off when we encounter the actions and communications of others around us.
Outside interactions with others deeply affect our interior world.
We’re wired for relationships. It’s fundamental to our being. It’s in our DNA.
As science has determined, there is no such thing as an individual, independent, solitary mind.
Rather, our brains are social organisms that work only when we and our minds are in relationship with others.
Scientists have discovered what they call “mirror neurons” – a group of neurons in our brains that mirror the actions and feelings of others.
Almost as an automatic reflex, we mimic each other.
Our mirror neurons are fired up when we watch each other.
Seeing someone cry makes us want to cry.
Seeing someone laugh prompts our laughter.
Seeing someone yawn urges us to yawn.
We’re prompted to feel what another person feels.
We’re born to mimic each other.
There’s no doubt about it, despite our fascination with the mythology of the “rugged individual”, we are physiologically wired to each other, in community, in relationships with each other.
This is all to say, that “church” is all about relationships; growing in the depth, honesty and realness of our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God.
One of our hopes about the confirmation process over the last year or two, is that not only have you picked up some “head” knowledge about the faith and Christianity – which is always helpful, – but also, and more importantly, that you’ve picked up some “heart” knowledge:
…that you’ve grown in your interactions with each other as persons,
…and have begun to see yourself as on a life journey with God walking with you by your side, a God who knows you deeply, and loves you beyond measure.
Because the truth is, we’re also wired to be in relationship with God.
The scripture passages you’ve chosen for your confirmation interestingly speak of that personal relationship with God, as you’d be in a relationship with any other person close to you – your mom, dad, friend.
We heard scriptural words of God’s commitment, of trust and help, of promises of provision in times of need, of being valued and cherished.
This is “the stuff” of good relationship.
And that even if – in the words of Psalm 139 that you Owen read – even if you were to go the farthest limits of the sea, even there God is still connected to you, is still seeking to be in relationship with you.
Even if, this summer, say you were to canoe into the deepest and darkest corner of a Canadian national park wilderness somewhere – in the Yukon, or Banff National Park, or Bruce Peninsula, or in Newfoundland/Labrador – the wi-fi connection in those remote places may be shaky, but God’s connection to you will never fail.
In fact, it may even be stronger there than anywhere else.