Bianca Vivion Brooks posted an Op-Ed in the NYTIMES on Friday. Titled I USED TO FEAR BEING A NOBODY, THEN I
LEFT SOCIAL MEDIA. In it, she shared how
her identity and wellbeing were tied up in the world wide web. She wrote:
“For years I poured my opinions, musings and outrage onto my
timeline, believing I held an indispensable place in a vital sociopolitical
But these passionate,
public observations were born of more than just a desire to speak my mind — I
was measuring my individual worth in constant visibility.
“After all, a
private life boasts no location markers or story updates. The idea that the happenings
of our lives would be constrained to our immediate families, friends and
real-life communities is akin to social death in a world measured by followers,
views, likes and shares.
“I grow weary when I think of this as the new normal for what is considered
to be a fruitful personal life. Social media is no longer a mere public
extension of our private socialization; it has become a replacement for it.
What happens to our humanity when we relegate our real lives to props for the
performance of our virtual ones?”
Ms. Brooks was right. That is the
message we get from our culture because culture often addressed our most basic
human instincts: it is so very human to crave affirmation from strangers, to desire
blessed assurances of our worth. Everyone
wants to feel valued by others beyond our immediate circle of family and
friends, certainly everyone needs to feel that we certainly are more valuable
than our bank accounts. Still, to live with constant expectation that somehow,
somewhere we will be acknowledged, that we will be awarded, we will achieve
recognition—these are the burdens society thrusts upon us. We must remember these do not comprise the
yoke of Christ, the blessed burdens of Christianity.
Sure, it is
disappointing to write a book that nobody reads or organize community outreach
on important issues –spiritual or social– and nobody shows up. But that’s not the same things as centering
our lives on social acceptance, praise and success.
Jesus walked the way of
the humble, rejected by his hometown natives, he made the Lord God his
foundation–nurturing disciples to be sure–but not dependent on their
adulation or even their solidarity,
Indeed, they often misunderstood him, they could not comprehend all that
he taught. nor did they exquisitely follow his example. What kept him going? His honesty, his willingness to sigh,
trusting that all will come to pass in
God’s time. Jesus was content to plant seeds, finding comfort in life’s basic
pleasures while offering hope, insisting on a better future but not manipulating
people into it. Critical of all
established institutions –He called the tetrarch Herod “that fox” and many
religious leaders “you hypocrites!” –all the while witnessing to the Great
Commandments and not despairing when his followers didn’t or couldn’t live up
disappointments plague us, we may recall the prophet Habakkuk as Jesus must
have recalled him:
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith,
Meanwhile, Jesus was content to praise God for
life’s little pleasures, close friends and family, however imperfect, yet still
sharing meals with disciples and strangers alike, engaging with people of wealth
and of little or no means, always seeing the inner soul of whoever sat beside
him; observing nature’s beauty and challenges –the lilies of the field, the
birds of the air, pastures of sheep and farms cultivating wheat, and, like
Abraham before him, the stars of the skies, the sands on the shores of the
Simplicity doesn’t mean not to try writing the
great American novel — if that is your ambition. It doesn’t mean not bringing your ideas to
your boss or high school principal or your local Congress person. In fact, we are obliged to live, to be
engaged, to share insights and experiences with those who make decisions for us
and for others. And, should we be the
ones who are making the decisions, it is vitally important that after
expressing our ideas, our preferences, we listen to others who think
differently, live differently without needing their adulation –or even their
In all this, Jesus insists we keep the bigger picture
whether we are heard or not, our ideas are accepted or not, whether our dignity
is acknowledged or not. Truth, Goodness,
Justice, Mercy are not rooted in imperfect society, or culture of meritocracy
but in Faith, Hope and Love. There is no
better foundation, no great truth.
Emily Dickenson grounded herself in spiritual
realities and knew the distinction between integrity and popularity when she
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us?
Don’t tell! they’d
advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
today is SUNDAY and we must let Jesus have the last words: Are we feeling
dejected, bereft of camaraderie, devoid of success and affirmation? Recall Jesus speaking from his own experience: “No prophet is ever accepted in his own
native place. ” And, like Jesus, we must move on. Yes,
we can dream, yes, we still can share. We can give and forgive. We must do all these things FREED from our
drives for self-importance so we may give thanks to God and say: ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done
what we were obliged to do.'”