Love as the Experience of Knowing and Being Known

In Christian Leadership, Community, Culture, Formation, Love, Pornography, Social Imaginary by BizgaineyLeave a Comment

Love, the experience of knowing and being known, is a game-changer!

Love certainly changed the game for me!

I can easily list a host of “loves” that have produced change and transformation in my life:

  1. The love of my parents governed some of the most critical changes in my life from the outset!
  2. The love of my wife has picked up where my parents left off. Her deep love has proven to be transformative on a multitude of levels as I have grown – while married to her – into a man!
  3. The love of my children has drilled a deep well of patience and perseverance.
  4. The love of my vocation has unleashed a previously untapped reservoir of gifts, talents, and strengths.

Most importantly is – the love around which all the others revolve – the love of our Father!

All true and meaningful loves are birthed from and grounded in this first love, this Ultimate love!

Regaining the experience of our first love – knowing and being known by Him – is vital!

Curt Thompson, author of Anatomy of the Soul, believes that knowing and being known is a universally shared desire. He suggests a reason why when he states:

“It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.  And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family.”

Thompson is onto something.

Especially if we are going to begin to experience a Social Imaginary that’s sacred, soul-full, and satisfying!

Knowing and being known is the way we experience and express love.

Social Imaginary is a Term Used to Describe the Cultural Waters in Which We Swim

A Social Imaginary is the array of values, institutions, laws, and symbols common to a particular social group and the corresponding society through which people imagine their social whole.

More simply: the Social Imaginary is the set of unwritten rules and values that shape the world in which we live.  As such, they also form and shape us. Often they shape us in ways that are imperceptible.

Following this line of reasoning, one might say that we relate to the larger Social Imaginary in a similar way as fish relate to water.  As the parable goes,

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What is water?”

Dominant Narratives Shape Dominant Behaviors

The larger culture context, often unseen, inhabits us by way of an Imaginary (array of symbols) that acts intuitively upon us.  In other words, we inhabit a culture that inhabits us in subtle ways.  While many phrases or terms could be used to describe our larger cultural narratives – and, no doubt, none would be complete – I, by way of experience and observation, use three short phrases to help identify the waters in which we currently swim.

They are:

  1. The reign of self-sufficiency – I am all I need and can make it on my own.
  2. The rule of self-absorption – I am all that matters.
  3. The rise of self-at-the-center of life – I am, period.

A frame or Imaginary dominated by these three narratives is purely centered on the individual as the be-all and end-all in life.  Asserting that such realities frame our culture is not to say that everyone behaves this way.  We all know people who give generously of their time, talents, and treasure.  After all, we all have friends who put others first and act selflessly in a way that makes us wish we were more like them!  We love being around them.  Time with these friends actually nourishes the soul!

These exceptions tend to prove the rule.  The rule being that the dominant, self-at-the-center, narrative is our primary cultural narrative.  The point is that these dominant narratives: self-sufficiency, self-absorption, and self-at-the-center, are now the waters in which we swim, so to speak!  As such, these narratives are no longer anomalies.  They have indeed become normative!

A culture composed of millions of people shaped by these dominant narratives will suffer from a deplorable nearsightedness, which would invariably – perhaps imperceptibly, over time – develop the ways in which we relate to one another.

The outcomes of this Imaginary are noticeable in nearly every corner of our culture!  Consider, for example, the prevalence and power of social media.  Social media, while good in many respects, has unleashed a torrent of self-centered and exhausting behaviors that are tethered to a Social Imaginary that proclaims “I am, period.”  Study after study reveals that most of us continually check and recheck our social media profiles for new likes, follows, tweets, etc.

This issue becomes more pressing when we investigate the industries that profit off of technology. While many good and noble businesses derive their income from technology, one industry in particular, whose primary source of revenue is technology, is alarming: the porn industry.

PORN’S UNHOLY UNION WITH THE WORLD OF SOCIAL MEDIA

I recently picked up a disturbingly important book called, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales.  Sales makes the argument, quite persuasively, that the technology industry is, perhaps even unwittingly, in bed with the porn industry.  The porn industry, of course, openly boasts that technology has created the economic engine that runs their economy.

The author then makes the startling claim that Silicon Valley, which is the epicenter of technological invention, is infected with a frat-boy, porn-saturated culture at every level of its leadership.  As such, the hub of our technological development is infused with porn-industry ideology that’s demeaning to women and de-humanizing to all.  If she’s correct, and she cites an array of data to substantiate her claim, then Silicon Valley’s inventions should concern every one of us!

She further asserts that many teenagers spend up to 9 hours a day on social media apps.  Each app is littered with images that pornify women and distort one’s image of womanhood.  Pornography, fundamentally, pictures women as objects.  While this is increasingly becoming the case for our men as well, it has always been, and will continue to be, the case for women.

SHAPING OUR FUTURE AS WE SACRIFICE OUR CHILDREN ON THE ALTAR OF TECHNOLOGY

Experiencing social media, with its fundamentally self-absorbed bent and it’s proclivity to provide a superhighway for porn distribution, is the collective experience of the teen and pre-teen world.  As a collective teenage experience, the teenage conscience takes shape, slowly and incrementally over time, in ways that begin to determine personhood, from which behavior naturally follows!  The way a teenager relates to the larger (and, by the way, immensely shallow) world of social media (a byproduct of a larger Social Imaginary), tends to define their experience of life and shape their identity in life.

This self-absorbed experience that technology nurtures is also the routine experience of today’s adult population.  Though adults don’t spend as much as nine hours a day on social media apps, per say, we devote around ten hours a day to ‘screen time.’

CNN reported, early this year, that the number is increasing.  Jacqueline Howard, citing a recent study substantiating the claim, states:

“A new Nielsen Company audience report reveals that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of this year. The report reveals a dramatic one-hour increase over last year in how often the average American adult gorges on media in a day. During the same time period last year, Nielsen reported that people spent about nine hours and 39 minutes engaging with gadgets.”

This way of living wearies us, resulting in a disenchanted soul and contributing to a disengaged society. As such, we suffer from a self-absorption so vast that it quenches our desire to engage with others, much less God, in a life-giving way.  Over time, the disenchanted soul, living in a disengaged society, begins to lose hope.

The more we lose hope, the less we experience love.  This current free-fall from hope and fully-human living, leaves us longing for, even as we are forgetful of, the experience of knowing and being known!

Is there hope?

You bet!  To quote Beaver, in The Chronicles of Narnia, “There’s a great deal more than hope.”

Why?

LOVE WINS, BUT NOT JUST ANY LOVE!

Because, as Dabo (Clemson Tiger’s head coach) and many others have noted, Love Wins.

Love, the experience of knowing and being known, MUST WIN!!

Not just any love, though.

No, not all love is true love.

In future posts, I will dive deep into the type of love that wins.  It’s a love that’s grounded in and tethered to the experience of knowing and being known.

Knowing and being known by the Father, in the Son, through His Spirit.

This love, the most ancient, holy, and truest of all loves, once birthed a sacred Social Imaginary that was, at one time, the dominant Imaginary.

Revitalizing a Social Imaginary that’s sacred, soul-full, and satisfying is the only hope any of us have.

Disrupting to Renew!

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