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Social Beings

“Mysteriously, Adam’s yearning for another like himself drew Eve out of him; for, without Eve, Adam was not just alone but was also unaware of the fullness of his humanity as a moral and social being.” (Vigen Guroian)

“Who does not know, indeed, that man is a gentle and sociable being, and not solitary or savage? Nothing is as proper to our nature as to enter one another’s society, to have need of one another, and to love the man who is of our race. After having given us these seeds which He has cast into our hearts, the Lord came to claim their fruits, and He said: ‘I give you a new commandment: to love one another’ (John 13: 34). The Lord, wishing to arouse our souls to observe this commandment, did not require of his disciples either unheard of prodigies or miracles (even though He gave them, in the Holy Spirit, the power to do such things): but… what did He say to them? ‘All will know that you are My disciples by the love that you have for one another’ (John 13: 35).” (St. Basil the Great)

“As social beings, we influence one another, whether for good or ill…We are social creatures whose behavior influences others. Whatever we do, others observe it and interpret it according to their own knowledge and experience. Thus Paul instructs us that we should be careful not to do and say something that would influence others in the wrong way.” (Fr. Basil)

“Living in the enchanted, porous world of our ancestors was inherently living socially.” The good of a common weal is a collective good, dependent upon the social rituals of the community. “So we’re all in this together.” As a result, a premium is placed on consensus, and “turning ‘heretic’ ” is “not just a personal matter.” That is, there is no room for these matters to be ones of “private” preference. “This is something we constantly tend to forget,” Taylor notes, “when we look back condescendingly on the intolerance of earlier ages. As long as the common weal is bound up in collectives rites, devotions, allegiances, it couldn’t be seen just as an individual’s own business that he break ranks, even less that he blaspheme or try to desecrate the rite. There was immense common motivation to bring him back into line”. Individual disbelief is not a private option we can grant to heretics to pursue on weekends; to the contrary, disbelief has communal repercussions.” (James K.A. Smith)

“There is much today that discourages people from building the kinds of relationships that help us flourish together as persons united in love. In many ways, it is easier to think of ourselves as isolated individuals and to act accordingly than it is to share a common life with other people. It is certainly possible to be a member of family, a church, or any social group and to care primarily about whether other people are giving us what we want or think we deserve. That mindset very often leads to broken relationships and getting caught in a downward spiral of isolation in which we become so turned in on ourselves that we risk losing any kind of sustaining relationship with our neighbors.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)


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