Hi, my name is Nils and I’m an addict. And so are you.
Most of us don’t have the obvious addictions like drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex. But we all have attachments, certain beliefs about ourselves and the world. Everyone of us is addicted to certain patterns of thinking. If you’re not sure about that, a great book to read about it is Addiction and Grace by Gerald May.
We live in a society that places way too high a value on feeling good. When that happens, especially at the expense of relationship and connection, addiction thrives and shame eventually sets in. We substitute feeling good about ourselves for feeling good.
In our culture, addictions take many forms. We are addicted to our smart phones, to shopping, to making more money, and it is killing our souls. If you don’t think you are addicted, try stopping for a few weeks and see how you feel.
Research is now showing that there is a definite link between the lack of connection in our society and addiction. As the above TED talk points out, in the United States, the number of people who can say they have close friends to call on in a crisis has been diminishing since the 1950s. The same would be true in Australia, as we are a very similar culture which is enormously influenced by the US.
Johann Hari, in the above talk, also says this:
“The amount of floor space an individual has in their home has been steadily increasing [since the 1950s], and I think that’s like a metaphor for the choice we’ve made as a culture. We’ve traded floorspace for friends, we’ve traded stuff for connections, and the result is we are one of the loneliest societies there has ever been.”
That is also true of Australia. I have said before that depression and loneliness are epidemic in this country. It is now a known fact that loneliness contributes to more deaths in Australia than obesity, and we, along with the US, are the most obese society in the world.
Human beings are wired to live in community, in relationship. The above-mentioned research just confirms that. When people find a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives through community, they will not need to use, or drink compulsively, or gamble, or act out.
The words of Jesus are just as applicable today as ever. If we really believe that Jesus is who he says he is, then he has to be relevant to all of life. So, when he says that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, when he asks what it will profit someone if they gain the whole world but lose their very self, and when he says that the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbour, this has to have relevance to 21st century life.
Love really is the answer to life. Love really is the meaning of life. Jonathan Hari knows it, whether he is Christian or not. Listen to the final words of this amazing TED talk:
“What I’ve tried to do now, and I can’t tell you I do it consistently and I can’t tell you it’s easy, is to say to the addicts in my life that I want to deepen the connection with them, to say to them, I love you whether you’re using or you’re not. I love you, whatever state you’re in, and if you need me, I’ll come and sit with you because I love you and I don’t want you to be alone or to feel alone.
And I think the core of that message — you’re not alone, we love you — has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts, socially, politically and individually. For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
Because we are all addicts in one form or another, what Hari is saying applies to all of us.
Our world is in a terrible state. We are so deluded that we base our national wellbeing on how well the economy is doing, we are so contradicted that we talk about community while at the same time being bombarded daily by the message that freedom lies in being an individual without ties, we are so angry and disaffected that some of our young people believe that to fight for a cause that believes in beheading “infidels” is going to make things better, and we are so beholden to other ideologies that we believe that to stop this cause we must resort to fear and intolerance.
Call it naive, call it what you will, but the fact is that love always wins in the end. The numbers might not show it, and you might not hear about it on the nightly news. But outbreaks of love are defeating our addictions.
As 1 John says, “beloved, let us love one another”. Let us love one another into healing and fullness of life.
Thanks for letting me share.