By Lynn Willis, Spiritual Director
This is a tale about 3 books.
The first book is a National Geographic publication called Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer. The Blue Zones are the places in the world with high concentrations of people who live past 100 and who also have grown old without health problems. While the slant the authors have chosen to emphasize is living longer, as I was reading it, it really hit me that these people are living better and more fulfilled lives, no matter how long that life may be. (I have to say I was impressed when Dan Buettner, the author said in his TED talk that these folks mostly die quickly, in bed, and frequently after sex — isn’t that we all want??)
They identified 9 traits that these communities had in common. The bedrock three of these traits were:
- Purpose – a reason to get out of bed in the morning
- Tribe – social circles which support healthy behaviors
- Community – a trusted larger group which shares a common lifestyle (think churches)
The second book is one that Peggy Hahn has highly recommended: An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization. This book discusses companies that make it a priority to help every employee be their best self. (Footnote: I thought I was going to hate this book – I mean really – a look at a hedge fund investment company? Not for me! But, surprise! I really liked it!). They also have identified 3 traits that are important to adult development. They call them:
- Edge (Blue Zones calls this purpose)
- Home (Blue Zones calls this tribe)
- Groove (Blue Zones calls this community)
These are amazingly similar results. The companies are trying to synthesize what the Blue Zone cultures have been practicing forever.
Now I’d like to point us toward the third book — a book which hasn’t even been released yet.
Richard Rohr’s new book, Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, is about relationships. God as relationship. Not even IN relationship – AS relationship. He says that we know now that no part of creation has energy by itself. It only has energy in relation to other particles. And we find God between. In relationship. Even in relationship to God’s own self in a divine dance.
3 books. 3 fields of study – anthropology, business management, and theology – all pointing to the same conclusion.
If we are to be healthy, if we are to be fully developed, if we are to live faithfully with God, then we must push back against the American stereotype of self-made, autonomous person.
We, in the West, live more and more isolated lives – bigger houses with fewer people per house, fewer and fewer friends reported each year and we congratulate ourselves on our own achievements. The church can and should be pivotal in nudging our culture back into community with each other.
LEAD is starting to make a big difference. LEAD is pointing the way. What we are doing is critical to the lives and health of God’s people. We wish to make this trusted community bigger and more diverse than it has ever been before –and it all comes down to creating and maintaining relationships.
Lord God, we give thanks and praise that we have the honor to be in relationship with you. We ask for help and wisdom to nudge the church away from smallness, narrowness and isolation and toward trustworthy relationships with each other. Give us all a reason to get up in the morning, a group of friends that we can count on, and a community that supports our efforts to love you and serve each other. In the name of the blessed Trinity we pray, Amen.