The last few weeks have been incredibly busy, but extremely gratifying. I’ve had a long list of speeches I saved to watch when I had a minute, and one of those was Brené Brown’s recent sermon at National Cathedral.
It’s a 17 minute sermon, and I’ve linked it at the bottom. But there are some highlights I want to bullet point, in case you don’t have time to watch the full video:
- Brown argues that we are neurobiologically wired to take care of one another, and inextricably connected to one another — connected across all socioeconomic, geographic, and ideological barriers. This connection, she says, cannot be severed, but it can be forgotten.
- When connectedness is forgotten, loneliness — which is the greatest predictor of early death, beyond even obesity and alcoholism — sets in. I’ve written about the Harvard study on longevity and connectivity; read about it here: What Makes a Good Life?
- We are increasingly sorted by ideology into bunkers, and the more sorted we are, the lonelier we are.
- The opposite of community is dehumanization. Dehumanization, when we fail to appreciate the human qualities — like thoughts and feelings — of others, begins with language. Brown makes a great point: the fight against dehumanization should cross all boundaries. In simple terms, if it’s not okay to call Hillary Clinton names, it’s also not okay to call Ann Coulter names. (Despite what you might have heard, both are human.)
- We are called not to separate ourselves from one another, but to find the face of God in everyone we meet.
As I watched Brown’s sermon, I thought of a passage from the book I’ve been working on. In it, a priest is writing a letter to a friend, urging her to forgive herself for her mistakes, as well as forgive someone who’s hurt her deeply. He writes,
When I think about how difficult the going can be between two people, even two people who love one another, a lyric from the libretto of Les Miserables comes to mind – have you seen it? I caught it in Vienna when I was visiting friends from my days at University there, so I know the text in German, meaning this will be a translation of a translation of a translation (much like the Bible!).
The snippet I’m referring to is at the end, a rather poignant scene between Valjean, who is dying, and Eponine and Fantine. The last line is this: “Und vergeßt nicht, die Wahrheit steht geschrieben, Zu lieben einen Menschen heißt: das Antlitz Gottes sehen.”
Can you dredge up enough college German to appreciate the beauty of those lines?
“But don’t forget the truth that has been written: to love another person is to see the face of God.”
Only in loving others do we experience the revelation of God in our lives. Of course, sometimes the people closest to us make loving them downright difficult…but still, we are called to try, and try, and try again.
When the wires of connectivity come loose, repair them. And if they loosen yet again, never give up working to repair them. Try, try, try again.