Monthly Archives: May 2018

Our Plugged-in Lonely Age

Life is full of paradoxes. Consider the contrast between our hyper-connectedness on a digital level and the epidemic of loneliness that pervades our society. We have smart phones with scores of apps that connect us instantly to a myriad of platforms where we can interact with scores, no, hundreds of ‘friends.’

But we wander through our cities and towns as lonely souls. An aged widower sits on a bench and stares at the waves lapping the beach with tears leaking from his eyes. A teen lounges at a lunch table with five or six of his friends. All are glued to their cell phones. But back home in his room he contemplates suicide. A subway car crammed with passengers hurtles toward the next stop. Silence reigns. People avoid eye contact. Each seems lost in a private world.

Throughout the western world, loneliness is epidemic. In Canada, a commonly quoted figure indicates that 1.4 million elderly people experience feelings of loneliness. “Sixty-six per cent of Canadian university students admitted to feeling isolated in the previous year.”

Loneliness has damaging health effects. John Cacioppo at the University of Chicago is a pioneer in isolating the harm loneliness does to our health. “He and other neuroscientists determined [that loneliness] could be life-shortening in extreme cases.…Loneliness can increase levels of stress hormones in an individual [and in this] increasingly individualistic society was fraying social connections.”

Because of the damage caused, Britain appointed a minister for loneliness. The Dutch government is investing 26 million euros to combat loneliness in its elderly.

Professor Cacioppo suggests that we think of loneliness not as a failing but as a biological signal like hunger. If so, we need to find some way to satisfy its craving.

The degree of loneliness in our societies is a sad commentary on how far we have fallen from the biblical ideal. When God created man, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). From this beginning we see the development of families, clans, and communities.

The coming of Jesus Christ as a man demonstrates how much God values communication and fellowship on a personal level. God could have sent His son into the world in a period such as ours when communication would have been instantaneous around the world. But no, the cold, distant communication that occurs through video, facetime, texts, FB posts, tweets, even phones cannot alleviate loneliness. Nor can it really communicate feelings and essential personal truths.

The communicator from God, Jesus Christ, was born like us, grew up in a family and chose 12 disciples to be with Him. Imagine the companionship of that group of disciples! Imagine the communication that went on! Imagine the feelings of love and acceptance generated. No loneliness there.

It is not enough to be a successful business man, a scholar, or a whiz on the computer. All of us need personal connections with others. For that we need face-to-face time with friends and family—in the same space. We need to see them. We need to be able to touch them. We need to be able to listen to them and see the inflection of their faces. God created us to belong, not to live our lives in isolation.

Please don’t continue living a lonely life. Join a local, bible-believing church. Join a Bible study group. Develop friendships with others in the great family of God.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––Quotes in this article are from Being Alone Together, Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail, April 7, 2018)

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Wildflower Week

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.1

Several years ago I wrote about the onset of spring in words that still resonate in this corner of Northumberland County, Ontario.

A mad motorcyclist shattered the country quiet with the thunder of his exhaust. Oblivious to spring beauties blooming along his path, he thundered through the woodlands. Ar-h-h-roa-r-rs echoed through the waking valleys. Awakening himself from winter’s siesta, he threw himself at the steepest parts of the hill below us. I caught a glimpse of his red helmet as he rocketed over the crest scattering gravel to the four winds. Scars on the path and a flung beer can marked his passing.

We now had an answer to our spring ditty; “Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. I wonder where the motorcyclist is?”

Dirt bike jockeys were not alone in feeling the stir of hormones. Our phone and email account went berserk. After cruising through winter in low gear, semi-hibernating Canadians felt an adrenaline rush. Why? I wondered if it was the thought of the approaching summer. Perhaps they realized that in order to enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer they had to race through a catch-up spring. But why couldn’t people schedule conventions in February and meetings in March? Didn’t they realize that spring is wildflower time?

She comes with gusts of laughter, –
The music as of rills;
With tenderness and sweetness,
The wisdom of the hills.2

Delicate brush strokes of spring green had begun to touch the dead fields and naked trees. Flowery pendants hung from aspens and soft maples. Rainbow trout fought their way up the Ganaraska to hurl themselves at the fish ladder. A rose-breasted grosbeak visited a feeder. Robin and Robinette ferried straw to their secret nest. All the signs pointed to wildflower week. The time had come to cancel appointments and head outdoors.

Wildflowers would soon peek through the warming humus in a race to flower before the forest canopy closed out the warming sun. Bloodroot was the first to unfold their white petals to the sun. Soon after, clusters of delicate spring beauties and then pink and white hepaticas fringed the forest pathways. Shortly, dog-toothed violets carpeted the rich soil below the maples with blades of spotted green before they gathered strength to unveil their shy saffron flowers.

But society seemed determined to distract us from this spring pageant. Marketing types turned up the pressure. Merchandising flyers littered our mailboxes. Malls planned massive sales. Real Estate agents moved into high gear.

The house needed spring cleaning. The lawn cried out for attention—rolling and aerating and fertilizing and cutting. The flower beds beckoned accusingly whenever I glanced out the window. [We now live in a condo where this is taken care of.] A flood of frantic activity engulfed us—just when we ought to have been taking a break to walk in our woodlands.

Every year we tell ourselves, “Next year we’ll make sure we take time for an unhurried stroll through a fairyland of nodding Trilliums.” And every year the demands make mincemeat of our firmest resolves.

The woodland wildflowers that carpet our hardwood forests in the spring bloom only during the narrow window of time after the warming sun brings them to life and before the overarching trees throw out a leafy curtain to shut out that selfsame sun. We have, perhaps, two weeks to enjoy one of God’s greatest displays. The timing will vary from year to year, depending on the weather. It could be really early, an El Nino spring in late April, or a delayed spring extending into mid-May.

Whenever it comes, we should call a halt to our madness and declare one whole week: “Wildflower Week”! Then everyone could take a holiday from work and shopping to walk the woodland trails. The experience might change our whole national psyche! Natural beauty might wean us from our consumer habits. We might regain perspective. Even marriages might be healed if husbands would walk hand in hand with their wives and children through a sylvan cathedral strewn with wildflowers. Children might be weaned away from cyber-fantasy to develop a taste for the glory of creation. Most important, the Creator might break through the defenses we have thrown up to shield us from pondering the great questions. Who? What? Why? How? How long?

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. After all, Mary Helen and I hadn’t done too well ourselves. But that year we were determined to take time to watch spring steal over the hillsides as we walked the trails. Timing would be crucial. When all the signs proclaimed, “Its wildflower time,” we’d ignore the phone. Allow the e-mail to pile up. Leave letters unanswered and bills unpaid. We’d ruthlessly cancel our commitments.

We’d search out that hushed valley where a meandering brook gurgled its way past wild ginger and jack-in-the-pulpits. We’d hunt for tiny stands of dutchman’s breeches or squirrel corn. We’d kneel down to smell the violets. We’d rest on a log while we feasted our eyes on a hillside covered with waving trilliums. We’d search for their red cousins. We’d try to find starflowers, toothwort, bellflowers and solomon’s seal.

But then, like every year before, the demands of society besieged our plans. We fought valiantly to break free—and we did manage to set aside several days to wander in the woodlands. We discovered a new flower and we tasted tranquility!
We would like to propose a new holiday—Wildflower Week. It would revolutionize western civilization!

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night–
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be.3

[An excerpt from Through A Country Window, Eric E. Wright, chapter 24, p170ff. For more information or to buy a copy see http://www.countrywindow.ca. Print copies available in Northumberland County, Ontario, email your order to wrightee@eagle.ca  Ebooks available through Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Through-Country-Window-Inspiring-Stories/dp/1554528062 ]

1.Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon, 1865, st. 4

2. Bliss Carman, “Over the wintry threshold”, Smart set, April 1913

3. Ben Johnson, quoted in The Book of Virtues, p. 431

How attitudes intensify or moderate suffering

We all face difficulties of one kind or another. Job loss. Accidents. Disease. Rejection. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). However, the attitudes with which we face troubles will profoundly affect our ability to cope victoriously; either intensifying or moderating our anguish.

Alice and Elsie and Marci, not their real names, routinely intensify their own pain. Alice wallows in unhappiness while blaming her employer and the government for the misfortunes in her life. A cheerful greeting to Elsie triggers a recitation of grievances that reflect her bitterness and anger. Marci not only looks sad and troubled, she is.

The attitudes of these three intensify their emotional distress. Consequently, they will endure greater pain than that of others who tackle life with an uplifting outlook. Their corrosive emotions may even affect their physical health. For our own wellbeing, as well as to glorify God, we need to get rid of dark and hurtful emotions such as: sadness, worry, doubt, discouragement, fear, envy, hopelessness, bitterness, wrath, discontent, wounded pride, hatred, and the like.

The New Testament uniformly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ, and obedience to his teaching, delivers us from bondage to these emotions. (I’m not denying that in some cases there are physical causes for depression.)

This does not mean we should cover up our anguish. The Psalms of lament show us the pattern of David. “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord…all night long I flood my bed with weeping”(Ps 6:3,6). “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps. 13:1). But notice that David brought his pain to God and underlying that pain was faith. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

A huge part of the Christian process of sanctification involves replacing dark attitudes with those that are uplifting. This process doesn’t happen overnight. But the apostle Paul explained that through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the transformation is certain. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control;” the very emotions that moderate suffering.

According to Jesus, happy are they who have the right attitudes. (See Matthew 5:3-12.) He taught his disciples, “Do not worry” (Matt. 6:31); “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”(John 14:1).

There isn’t room in this article to touch on the power of prayer, the transforming effect of thankfulness, and the uplifting outcome of worship and praise. And surely, I don’t need to mention that we engage in these activities not for therapeutic reasons, but because we have touched the hem of the Infinite. That touch makes us want to lift our hearts in praise. We have been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ and that change makes us want to express thankfulness. The positive effect of praise and thankfulness—joy—is incidental to the reality of salvation, but very real.

I have no doubt whatever that the Christian faith has contributed infinitely more than we can imagine to human health, social wellbeing, and international harmony. How do I know this? I know it from the teaching of the Bible, observation of others, my own experience, and the testimony of myriad Christians, some of whom suffer indescribable persecution.

Do you have doubts that Christian attitudes moderate suffering? “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Or as Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

In a later blog, I’ll write about the role of encouragers in helping those who face trials.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )