Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Social Life

From David Dobb's feature story in the Oct. 2011 National Geographic, "Beautiful Brains":
"This supremely human characteristic makes peer relations not a sideshow but the main show. Some brain-scan studies, in fact, suggest that our brains react to peer exclusion much as they respond to threats to physical health or food supply. At a neural level, in other words, we perceive social rejection as a threat to existence. Knowing this might make it easier to abide the hysteria of a 13-year-old deceived by a friend or the gloom of a 15-year-old not invited to a party. These people! we lament. They react to social ups and downs as if their fates depended upon them! They're right. They do."
(David Dobbs, National Geographic, Oct. 2011 issue. )
--But do they?

On the one hand, the statement that "we perceive social rejection as a threat to existence" resonates deep inside me. I didn't experience that level of wild oscillation as a teenager, but now that I am in the most vital human relationship of my life (this thing called "romance," which has become "marriage"), I know in a new way the feeling that something in me will die, is dying, when the relationship is damaged. I never depended like this before, I never hurt like this before (& I never rejoiced like this before).

Which brings me to the other hand: though humans are meant to live in society/community, and to be defined by relationship, I don't believe our existence (as the essence of ourselves) is meant to be threatened by social rejection, no matter how severe. I think we're meant to feel threatened by it, and that that sense of threat should shake us into realizing: this isn't my life. Or rather, it's my life, but it's not my Life.

--if that makes any sense. Let me be more explicit.

As a Christian, I am at the same time profoundly dependent and connected to the people around me ("one flesh" with my husband, "one body" with the rest of the Church), and radically independent from them because who I am is who Christ says I am, and Christ is life, light, truth, salvation, and hope for me. He is the Bread of Life. He is my Refuge. No one can snatch me out of his hand.

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