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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Connected" (Erin Davis)

TITLE: Connected
AUTHOR: Erin Davis
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2014, (135 pages).

We can be wonderfully connected but still feel utterly lonely. We can be among people but still feel very much alone. We can have our calendars full of activities but inside our hearts, we feel empty. These paradoxical feelings were deeply felt by author Erin Davis, wife of a full-time Church minister. The truth hit home the moment they shifted from a busy schedule to a new environment where she felt strangely lonely as she moved away from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the busy to the not-so-busy, and from a false bubble of connectedness to a true revelation of emptiness. For we are "hardwired" for genuine relationships. Davis learns from Google that loneliness is common, transcends social status and geography, and can spread like wildfire. The rise of social media does not mean one will be more linked to everyone else. It may simply be people feeling alone together.

In this book, Davis looks at loneliness from various angles. Medically, she discovers that doctors had largely underestimated the problem of loneliness. Culturally, she laments at how the world promotes individual achievements to the detriment of the true need of the individual to belong to a community. Among Christians, she observes how believers often displayed the "Patmos Syndrome" where one holds high the saints like John to willingly choose isolated individual achievements over community goals and togetherness. Biblically, she looks back at Adam being the loneliest man on earth and sees the loneliness syndrome as something that has continued from the beginning to the present time. Busyness, the presence of material things, or electronic connections will never fill the void within us. The same thing for marriage. One must not marry for the sake of resolving one's loneliness. One can be married but feel utterly lonely. Throughout the book, Davis contrasts the difference between true connections and false connectivity. Using the pop stars as examples, she points out that there is a difference between being known and being loved. She asserts that "being known is far more romantic than being loved." This is quite counter intuitive but shows readers that being known is a precursor to true and loving connections. In order to love, we need to know and be known. Pointing out many scripture references to the importance of knowing, the important thing for anyone feeling lonely is not about seeking more knowledge or more love. It is the simple awareness that one is already loved by God and known of God.

Davis points her guns at technology as a cause of both our loneliness as well as a false cure. As a self-confessed "technology hermit," Davis also notes how both technology addicts as well as those going through technology fasts will end up at the same destination: Loneliness. Having a technological stimulation like email bling or a Facebook prompt will release a neurotransmitter called dopamine in our brain that regulates our emotional responses. The trouble is, when one is hooked on technological stimulation, one settles for small doses of dopamine instead of one big flood that comes from genuine connections. Other causes of loneliness includes the way we isolate ourselves by trying to take charge or stay in control. This happens when we step out of community and try to meet our own needs by ourselves. As a result, we give ourselves a false sense of security and an invitation for sin to continue to deceive us. The TV sitcom, Friends is an example of what is unreal, for connections is not about a one-hour comedy of humour, fun, or wit. True relationships come when one stops hiding from the truth, when one makes peace with messiness, and to learn that commitment, not convenience is the fuel for true friendship.

Davis subsequently unleashes a whole list of things that can negatively impact our relationships. The pursuit of convenience is one of them. Believing lies is another. What is needed to counter these negative impacts is to have the courage to open up, the compassion to reach out, and be vulnerable for others to connect with us. Davis points out three lies worth noting too: 1) Lie of autonomy; 2) Lie of Self-Sufficiency; and 3) Lie of Sovereignty. Another problem is busyness. Like Technology and Perfectionism, busyness can be a Trojan horse which is that something we invite unwittingly into our own hearts thinking it was a gift. Some suggestions to tackle this busyness and to cultivate relationships are:
  • Observing Sabbath
  • Learn to take time and rest
  • Work six days, rest one day
  • Nurture intimacy
  • Practise the Golden Rule
  • Love like Jesus
  • Learn about Loneliness
  • Discern times to connect and times to disconnect
  • Embrace the Good News and start from there
  • ...
Davis has given us a really helpful book in trying to connect with people amid a technological age and a culture of busyness. It is not easy to relate to people. It can often be tempting to retreat to our comfortable cubby holes and to isolate ourselves from the world. If we are mindful of our true need, we would know when to reach out and when to retreat. This book fills in an important gap about how to build communities in our modern world. Disregard the warnings in this book at your own risk.

Rating: 4.25 star of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of B & H Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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