(WSJ) John Garvey: John Henry Newman–A New Saint for the Age of Loneliness

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job, and the results don’t surprise me. I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other. I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby. Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames. The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone; we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes, noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship. Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people, but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship. The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic, someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality. Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial, thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble. Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful. Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness. He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism, at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence, some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Roman Catholic

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