In the last post, I wrote that there were two things contemplating the wires I tend not to see actually showed me, one of which was my selective blindness. The other thing the wires reminded me of is the depth and breadth of connections I have with the rest of humanity.
As an introvert with very strong independent tendencies, it is easy for me to downplay and ignore the connections I have with others. I am quite comfortable most of the time doing my thing and if I occasionally go for extended periods of time not interacting with others, well, that is okay. But even an independent introvert like me has more need of others that I sometimes let myself be aware of.
And the wires coming in to the house are a visible reminder of those connections. If my introverted self wants to slump down in the recliner watching TV and ignore people, the cable wire reminds me that I can’t actually do that without some significant interactions with real people. These people connect the signal to my TV. They repair the wires that carry the signal. They run the switching equipment that brings the signals to the wires. They administer the business that provides the service. They make the programs that come through the wires. They do all that just so I can sit in front the TV and ignore people. And they can do that because I and many others interact with them. Paying the monthly cable bill is an interaction, one that involves a lot of other people at banks and so on.
The poet John Donne wrote “No man is an island”. Putting aside his non-politically correct language as an artifact of a different era, he is making a powerful point. No matter what we would like to think, we humans are intricately and intimately related in more ways that we can imagine. The connections are beneficial–but they are also two way. The cable company will happily provide me with diversions, provided I provide them with a monthly income. The power company will likewise give me power to run my various toys and heat the house, provided I interact with them financially.
The wires connect me to the world so that I can supervise a food security project being done by a Congolese pastor as part of the requirements for the course he is taking at a Kenyan theology school–and I can do it from the comfort of one of my two work chairs in my living room in Canada.
If I am drinking a cup of coffee while I am doing it, I am connected with the whole coffee production line, which means that in the end, some of the money I paid for the coffee ends up helping some farmer somewhere buy food or pay school fees. And maybe that does involve me in the debate over whether that farmer actually gets enough for his time and effort to provide me with my coffee.
After Cain killed his brother Abel and was trying to hide the crime from God, he asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4.9). He would desperately like the answer to be “no”–but it can’t be no. We humans are so interlinked and intertwined that a sneeze in Canada affects farmers in Kenya. All human need becomes the responsibility of all humanity–we are all connected in some way and have mutual responsibilities and benefits. Often, we are aware of some of the connection and responsibilities but would like to ignore others. I want to ignore the panhandlers on the streets when I am in the city. But ultimately, I have a connection to them–maybe because a former student is using some of the stuff I taught to develop a ministry to the street people whom I am trying to ignore. Or maybe that person with their hand out is the grandchild of one of the people who occasionally comes to one of the worship services I lead. Or maybe the connection is that God wants me to intervene directly in that life.
I will probably continue to ignore the wires coming into the house, at least until one of them doesn’t work or I get desperate for something to write. But I do need to remember the connections they represent and the wider connections they symbolize. Even at my most introverted and independent, I have benefits and responsibilities connecting me with the rest of humanity.
May the peace of God be with you.