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Do you ever feel really lonely, even in a room full of people? Do you feel alone, even with someone you love?
There’s a Willie Nelson song I love that goes: “mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone even with someone they love.”
I’m not a cowboy, but sometimes I feel lonely even when I’m with people I know, so I sure can relate to being a cowboy.
Especially with all the amazing technology we have now—cell phones, email, texting, Skype, and on and on—we sometimes seem more isolated from each other than we’ve ever been before. I can talk to my friends anywhere, in China, Ecuador or Australia, right now and at no cost. I can see and hear them while I’m talking. Despite that instant communication, sometimes I’m unsure how they really are feeling. If I’m very sensitive and perceptive, sometimes I can read beyond the words to hear what their hearts are speaking. Often, they’re lonely too, lacking the human connection and love we all need.
We have massive amounts of information available on the internet to help us with any and all types of problems of health, nutrition, education, etc. We have immediate access to professional expertise of every sort. But I think most troubling are relationships with our family, friends and peers.
Sure, we have evolved and learned how to better communicate with each other, at a higher level and in more sophisticated ways, what with the huge advances in technology. You might think, with all of those helpful devices and tools, that most people would develop their emotional and spiritual sensitivity, their ability to communicate and improve their relationships.
Ironically, I think that our fast-paced technology, information overload and pressurized lives actually handicap us and isolate us so we are less capable of or willing to trust others. Emotionally and spiritually, we may be less well off than the generations that preceded us, who had fewer distractions, less pressure and more quality time with their families and friends.
When was the last time you walked over to your neighbor’s house for a cup of coffee or a chat without calling first? That was common in years gone by, but today it is a sad commentary that marks a shift in how we fear to touch each other or enter into one another’s lives without permission.
In spite of our technically-advanced world, we have not learned how to open our hearts and let people in. We protect and isolate ourselves, fearing every imaginable threat amidst a culture that obscures true feelings, hides insecurities and dares not to expose our vulnerabilities.
But it is those true feelings and vulnerabilities that make us who we are: interesting, idiosyncratic and human.
Instead, we’ve learned to fear. Babies don’t fear, because fear is not the natural state for us. Of course, our parents and our peers taught us to protect ourselves, and we quickly acquired our fears when we learned about the world’s dangers. The daily news assaults us with stories of those dangers, with loud warnings about crime and terror.
So how do we learn to live in this world without cowering in constant fear—with confidence, faith and the certainty that the future is beautifully bright, full of promise for an advancing society and a peaceful world?
The Baha’i teachings answer this question with breathtaking clarity and beauty:
Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms.
If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27.
Imagine, just for a moment, that God’s love surrounds us all our lives, just as the atmosphere surrounds us and gives us breath, just as the ocean surrounds and sustains all the fish that swim in it:
My creatures are even as the fish of the deep. Their life dependeth upon the water, and yet they remain unaware of that which, by the grace of an omniscient and omnipotent Lord, sustaineth their very existence. Indeed, their heedlessness is such that were they asked concerning the water and its properties, they would prove entirely ignorant. Thus do We set forth comparisons and similitudes, that perchance the people may turn unto Him Who is the Object of the adoration of the entire creation. – Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 40.
If you can imagine and begin to understand the divine love that surrounds you and supports you, that draws together every atom in your being, then you can start to lose your fears and live a truly open and courageous life.