By Canon Gerry Conroy, Parish Priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton
This Pandemic has concentrated mostly on the physical symptoms of Covid-19, but I was reading about how people are also starting to be concerned that some who were seriously ill might suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of what they experienced and others are concerned with various neurological symptoms of the disease. We all know how people isolated felt the loneliness of it, the lack of connection and it occurred to me if the marches, the getting out and about in large communal areas of parks or beaches was also about re-establishing connection, if it was about anger and frustration at a connection to others or to life itself that was being denied them.
That force of that connection, it seems to me, is largely situated in our emotions; we need to feel connected to others and if we don’t feel it, the connection is somehow less real for us. The feeling is part and parcel of being human. In some ways all our feelings are about that connection and the feelings that are most important to most people all centre around the sense of our connectedness. And even as we seek it out in life, we all know that we live between the two poles of feeling connected and feeling the lack of it. We live in that dichotomy, but we also lose interest in what seems to offer us no sense of connectedness, we are driven in search of the echo of that sense of fullness that being connected seems to bring.
I don’t think it is too far from the truth to say that in some way in all our feelings we are seeking out that sense of being connected. The rituals of our daily life, the rituals of religion, they too are largely directed towards helping us feel it. Religion itself, with all its rules and regulations, is about leading us beyond the illusion of a connection to a real one; even the word itself comes from the Latin, to ‘bind’. But religion’s connection comes with a price, it means we are binding ourselves to something else, we are willing to take a yoke on our shoulders. And that is a problem, it has always been a problem, but, I think, it is especially a problem for our own age. Now more than ever, we know the power of the individual’s will: technology has given us the illusion that we are independent, we do not want to be tied by any yoke, technology seems to be offering us the freedom to be connected without a yoke to bind us. That is why spirituality is so attractive to people who reject religion: It lets them continue to search for connectedness on their own terms; a kind of mix and match to fit ourselves and make us feel connected – at least for a little while. Yet the modern world seems as unconnected as ever, even as it seems to be more connected than ever. There is so much separation into gangs and cliques and ideologies. We want connectedness but we are just creating more division.
Our hope for connectedness has been seduced into believing that by taking the yoke of technology on our shoulders anything is possible to man, all can be subdued to our will, we are given the hope that technology, as well as progress, can bring about the fullness we seek. Once we see the illusion of this modern promise, then the alternative is a bit of humility. The Gospel, I think, is talking to us about that humility, telling us to reach out to Christ and accept that what we are seeking is not found in the human will’s absolute power to dominate everything, instead we have to run to God because it is by taking his yoke on our shoulder that we will open the door to the connection and the fulness we seek.