Most educated people in our culture assume the fundamental human problem is mortality, specifically, and human limitation, more generally. But here is my argument. What if it turned out that the fundamental human problem was not mortality after all? What if it turned out that all along the fundamental human problem was isolation? What do I mean by this? If the fundamental human problem is isolation, then the solutions we are looking for do not lie in the laboratory or the hospital or the frontiers of human knowledge or experience. Instead the solutions lie in things we already have—most of all, in one another.
It seems that the word that epitomizes being an admirable person… is ‘for.’ We cook ‘for,’ we buy presents ‘for,’ we offer charity ‘for,’ all to say we lay ourselves down ‘for.’ But there is a problem here. All these gestures are generous, and kind, and in some cases sacrificial and noble. They are good gestures, warm-hearted, admirable gestures. But somehow they don’t go to the heart of the problem… ‘For’ is a fine word, but it does not dismantle resentment, it does not overcome misunderstanding, it does not deal with alienation, it does not overcome isolation.
…what isolated and grieving and impoverished people usually need is not gifts or money but the faithful presence with them of someone who really cares about them as a person. It is the ‘with’ they desperately want, and the ‘for’ on its own (whether it is food, presents, or money) cannot make up for the lack of that ‘with.’ Samuel Wells, Rethinking Service (via equustel)