Barry Eisenberg wrote in the June 11th, New York Times that Aunt Doris was 105 years old before she would agree to live somewhere other than the New York City apartment that she had occupied for over 70 years. The end was near, and she wanted to be with family more than she wanted to be in the same place with a paid caregiver. Living with her nephew’s family she visited with familiar people, through conversation rekindled shared happenings; the mutual nurture of three generations transformed Aunt Doris from near death to a remarkable 17-month life extension. Mr. Eisenberg believes that he, more than his beloved Aunt, benefited the most from the power of meaningful living and deep personal connection.
Our culture’s futile attempt to escape the clutches of “never enough” life hustling has succeeded in unraveling family generations and denying far too many from the rich connection of life long interpersonal connection. This diminished life quality includes, of course, disconnection with people that have shared life passages but also includes disconnection from gathering places. For example, I haven’t entered Seitz’s Tavern in my Michigan hometown for more than forty years, but recent news of its closing after 90 plus continuous years of operation, shocked me and was a chief topic of conversation among each of my extended family members.
In The Second Mountain, David Brooks illuminates how we, as individuals and as a culture, have arrived at the desolation of separateness. Character, firm values and a strong moral compass form a necessary but insufficient foundation for personal happiness. “I now think the rampant individualism of our current culture is a catastrophe”, Brooks writes in the introduction. “The emphasis on self – individual success, self-fulfillment, individual freedom, self-actualization – is a catastrophe… I now think that that living a good life requires a much vaster transformation… from the mindset of hyper-individualism to the relational mindset of the second mountain.” He identifies two mountain people. Those who climbed the steep incline of worldly success to attain an unsatisfactory outcome and, then, climbed a second incline to become a person who radiates joy, whose outlook is other-centered, who have willingly given themselves away. These are individuals who are catalysts for people who have something in common and build on that commonality to form a community overriding whatever individual differences that exist. These observations are worthy of considered thought for personal enlightenment and collective inspiration. Perhaps, Saint Andrew Care Groups, which we’ll be learning more about in the coming months will further this noble enterprise!
Brooks has bolstered the effort by connecting many of these second mountain people with the Aspen Institute’s resources through a network calling itself, Weave – the social fabric project. “The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities. Join us in shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.” The Aspen Institute is now supporting pockets of people all across these United States as they reinstitute meaningful living through deep personal interconnection. Their progress can be observed by logging in at https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/weave-the-social-fabric-initiative/.
Great Creator bless the weavers and those who support and encourage them to do Your will. May we be among them!
Dave and Cas Winans have been members of Saint Andrew since 2008.