1999: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were described as loners…
2007: At Virginia Tech, Cho Seung-Hui presented a chilling portrait of a 23-year-old loner
2010: The man accused of shooting two children at a Carlsbad elementary school was described by neighbors Saturday as a loner…
2011: Brazilian school shooter, Menezes de Oliveira, described as a loner…
2012: Adam Lanza was a quiet, withdrawn loner…
2012: The alleged shooter, TJ Lane, was described by Chardon High School classmates as a loner…
2018: Classmates, relatives and neighbors have described Cruz as a loner…
The above direct quotes from news coverage of different school shootings share only one feature—loner. I discussed my analysis of the Parkland school shooting on my podcast here. In this Thought Tool, I present to you something quite different.
God created a world dependent upon connection. Words, musical notes, and even the chemical elements of the periodic table all must connect before they are useful to humans. Most importantly, we God’s children were created to connect. Connectedness is necessary for our own sense of identity. Loneliness is painful partially because it alienates us from ourselves. Admittedly, killing other people is an extreme and thankfully rare response to excruciating loneliness. Nonetheless, while most of us do not react violently to the pain of disconnectedness, we still suffer.
Being without authentic human contact does to our souls exactly what oxygen deprivation or starvation does to our bodies. God created us with obvious physical needs but He also created us with spiritual needs. Connectedness with others is one of these needs and being deprived of this harms us just as surely, though perhaps not as quickly, as deprivation of oxygen or food.
You may well have experienced this very problem without diagnosing it. Perhaps you felt a subtle difficulty at summoning up feelings of happiness. Perhaps you felt a little depressed and could think of nothing about which you could be happy or for which you could feel grateful. Seek no further. The first and most likely explanation is insufficient authentic connection.
Ancient Jewish wisdom helps explain what authentic connection is. It was first achieved in that most perfect of all places, the Garden of Eden. After God said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) He solved the problem by creating Eve. Loneliness ended because Adam and Eve lived together in God’s garden, an environment of spiritual compatibility.
Unfortunately, life of spiritual compatibility in the Garden came to an end. Adam and Eve were evicted from paradise but they were still married and got to spend the rest of their lives trying to rebuild the spiritual umbrella of their relationship.
After driving Adam and Eve out of the garden, God placed at the east of the Garden of Eden two Cherubs “to guard the way of the Tree of Life”. Some mistakenly assume that their purpose was to prevent man from ever reaching the Tree of Life.
However, the true meaning of the words is that their purpose was to protect the pathway to paradise.
In only one other circumstance throughout the entire Five Books of Moses do we again encounter the two cherubs: they are found upon the gold lid of the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25:18 and Exodus 37:7.
If you are becoming more familiar with the ancient Jewish wisdom that my wife, Susan, and I teach, you will know that the reappearance of the cherubs is the vital clue. How can those two cherubs guide us back to Eden and help us banish loneliness?
The avenue back to Eden and the end of loneliness is through the Biblical blueprint contained within the box guarded by the cherubs. The same cherubs that protect the path to Eden also point the way to the Torah within their ark. That source of enlightenment details the shared core beliefs that will allow the children of Israel to truly connect. This is why the cherubs never appear in the Torah as individuals but always as a pair of them. They represent the ultimate metaphor of friendship and connection.
We might have thousands of ‘friends’ on social media and hundreds of friends we meet by our membership in various clubs, jobs, churches or synagogues. We might even be at a different social engagement every night. It is not the quantity of people we know, it is the quality of our connections with them.
Being connected with people of similar outlook is far more important than being connected with people of similar socio-economic level, skin color, or even with similar interests and hobbies. Religious beliefs are one type of shared outlook and this is why some people feel closer to friends in their faith families than they do to their real biological families.
Wise business owners understand the importance of a corporate culture. When money represents materialism it drives people apart as each individual is focused on his or her own acquisitions. When money represents proof of serving others, money corroborates a shared vision of societal interaction.
Instead of frantically seeking crowds of friends, seek out the few with whom your connection can be Edenic. Build spiritual compatibility into your relationships. Instead of spending most of your free time with your spouse at meaningless movies, spend it building your spiritual umbrella. Make sure that your connection with your family is not only biological. A corporate culture that instills core shared beliefs makes for meaningful work relationships. In all parts of your life, build spiritual bonds of shared ideas with those you care most about.