According to a 2006 study, Americans have less close relationships than ever. We are more socially isolated, and less inclined to form friendships that at other times in our history. Some people don’t mind this. They don’t want to have any identity with a collective.
I am re-reading Ayn Rand’s Anthem. She is trying to call people to throw of societal bonds that link us to a collective “We.” True freedom for her is found in individual accomplishment and personal choice. Any infringement upon a persons free choice is slavery and evil to her.
I was reminded of Jean Paul Sartre’s famous aphorism - “Hell is other people” (original Fr. - “l’enfer, c’est les autres”). Sartre thought we committed sin if we allowed ourselves to be defined by another’s perspective. So, in the play, Huis Clos, three people examine eachother’s lives - all the wrongs, the sins, the mistakes. It is an existentialist’s nightmare!
Rand and Sartre usually get idiot undergrads all riled up. They run out of their philosophy classes, buy a beret at the hat store for pretentious people, and vote for Ron Paul. But, soon, they graduate; they get married and have kids. They take off their berets and look into the eyes of an infant, wondering just who they really are.
I have found that only my son really knows me, because he does not. He just loves.
I have found that I am more when we are together. I have found that there is a joy in “We” that frees me and it abounds.
What about you? Do you feel like people in our culture are more isolated? Or is this a good thing? Are we more inclined to focus on fewer relatinship for higher quality?
cross-posted at thirdwatch