Sunday, December 25, 2011

Transforming from contact to relationship.

Column by:
Neelesh R Gogia

The 21st century will be remembered especially for, among other things, the opportunities for making 'contact' beyond the boundaries of country and continent. Social networking sites ensure that we keep in 'contact' with others with the option to "choose a friend" or limit the access of others to our privacy. It has also 'refined' relationships to such a degree that some of them are only sustained by the slender thread of an optical fiber.

Being in contact may often be an addiction that spells disaster for personal relationships. Social networking sites can often become the immunization we take to eschew genuine personal relationships. It may hide the fact that beneath the surface lies the fear of genuine intimacy. Worse, we think we are in relationship just because we are in contact. The hollowness of it all is exposed by some people, for whom virtual reality has become frighteningly REAL.

The malaise of being in "contact" creeps into our spiritual lives as well. We are happy to be in contact with God multiplying and creatively finding ways of marketing our spiritual wares. But as with social networking, it is quite probable that we are afraid of leaving self behind in order to find our True Self. Keeping in contact with God through rituals and spiritual practices may just be the balm that soothes our troubled spirit.

Eric Berne, therapist and psychoanalyst in the Freudian tradition, poignantly described the various games we play to avoid genuine intimacy in relationships. Marriage and friendship lose much of their meaning when they are reduced to merely being in contact with our spouse or with one another.

In a relationship, contact with another through a handshake or warm embrace and gift-giving are meant to be signs of intimacy and the gift of self to each other. The celebration of Christmas sees a lot of gift giving. It is a time when most of us revive contact with a friend. We fulfill our religious duties too, making sure that we are as much in contact with God as we are with friends and family.

And so it was at that first Christmas. While there were many who chose to merely maintain their social connection, there were a few who chose to be in relationship. The shepherds went beyond their bonding as a social group and forged a relationship of those in common search for the One who had drawn them together in community.
There were a few others like the wise men who set aside their need to be in contact with each other only to update their knowledge, and chose instead to come together in friendship bound by a common search for the Eternal Wisdom beyond all knowledge.
And then there was Mary and Joseph, the couple who allowed their relationship to be transformed into a union of mind and hearts as they contemplated in silence before their very eyes the Word of God made flesh within their hearts as well.

We have the option of identifying with either the many or the few present at that first Christmas. The Christmas Story is a reminder that God offers us each moment the opportunity to be in relationship beyond mere contact not only with Him, but with each other. It is also in its fullest sense the call to move beyond relationships to union with each other in Him, through Him and with Him.

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