When it seemed the stranger in the public restroom was talking to me about meeting later, I almost closed my fly a bit too hastily.
I bolted for the door, but not before I suddenly realized he wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to a friend through his wireless earpiece.
He didn’t even know I was there, because, in his mind, he wasn’t standing at the urinal. Through technology, he had isolated himself from his environment. He was in another place.
Isolation is becoming the rule of our society. We don’t even ask directions anymore.
In our car, we ask Nuvi. We call her Nuvi after the model name printed on our GPS unit. I selected the female voice because I have four women in my household and follow directions better from a female voice.
Even on crowded airlines, we isolate. Remember the interesting conversations you used to have on the plane? Not anymore. Most people isolate by plugging their ears with a headset.
Even at my church, we’ve found ways to isolate. We have three services without much visit time in between. Each minicongregation is isolated from the other. In the parking lot, we play a game of musical cars with the incoming folks. And if you really want to self-isolate, you can stay home and watch our pastor on the Internet.
Our forefathers lived with long periods of isolation on the farms, but today we submerse ourselves into isolation with our electronics, nearly as quickly as Maxwell Smart from the ’60s television series employed the Cone of Silence.
Isolation isn’t always bad. It just depends how you use it.
Isolation can be a good thing. I’ve written several columns about finding a “God space” on the beach, or the mountaintop or near a good fishing spot. I’ve said many times, “Mark the places where you find God and go there often.”
Even Jesus found such isolated places on the sea, in a garden or on a mountaintop. Jesus isolated himself, however, only long enough to recharge his ultimate purpose. He expressed that best in his “Prime Directive.”
Remember “Star Trek” and the Prime Directive? Starfleet dictated there can be no interference with the internal affairs of other civilizations. Sounds good, but it still was basically, “Don’t get involved — isolate.”
The Prime Directive Jesus gave was to “Love the Lord your God with all your passion . . . and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
It’s the second part of the directive that gives us the most trouble. You certainly can’t love your neighbor in isolation.
Jesus knew this.
He moved off the mountaintop and down into the valleys where the people lived. He did so because he knew real love is a game, which always requires multiple players.
This world is filled with a cacophony of distractions that threaten to drown out the purpose of our creation by blocking our connection to people. When we feel that happening, it’s time to take a step back. Take off your headphones, put away your book and tune in.
It’s really not such a profound principle. It all boils down to three Ls: listen, look and love.
Listen to people. Hear their needs, their hurts and their dreams.
Look people in the eye. Because looking at them in the eye helps you see their soul.
When we listen and look, the love follows rather naturally. It follows because by listening and looking, you start to see yourself.
Hence, the Prime Directive also becomes the best antidote for the pains of isolation, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”