This is a sermon on Friendship I shared with First Friends meeting on 2023-04-23.
This text is based on the story known as the “Walk to Emmaus” in Luke 24:13-35.
Why Did We Choose Loneliness?
In a recent episode of The Ezra Klein Show titled “The ‘Quiet Catastrophe’ Brewing in Our Social Lives.” Klein and his guest Sheila Liming, author of “Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time,” discuss how lonely Americans are becoming.
Between 1990 and 2021, there was a decrease of 25 percentage points in the number of Americans who say they have five or more close friends. 25 percentage points. And that can just collapse into common wisdom. But…that’s a big drop. Young adults feel lonelier than the elderly. You should not look at data like that and not just say, well, that’s too bad. It should make us say, where did we go wrong?…
There is an interesting turn in the episode when they suggest that at least some of loneliness is structural, it is the result of a series of choices we’ve made, and the way we’ve built society.
[Lonlieness is] also an outcome. It is the result of a structure. It is imposed, in some ways, by culture. We make choices as a society about what we value. We chase our jobs. We live far from our families. We move away from our friends. We spread out into suburbs and into single-family homes set back behind fences and lawns. We sprawl out with automobiles. We design for atomization and isolation. And so, no wonder we get lonely.
Klein asks a powerful query saying: [all of this] raises [a] deeper question of, why did we choose that? And what would it then look like to choose otherwise? Not just as individuals but as a society, what would it mean to structure for community?
“What would it mean to structure for community?”(more…)