Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Compartmentalization: we are all connected!

Well, I think it's time for me to attempt this form of communication now; we'll see how it goes!  These are some things I have been pondering over for a long time now, albeit in many different ways with many different situations triggering these thoughts.  Anyway, the keyword that ignites this train of thought persistently is "compartmentalization."  
    It seems to me that we are unable to realize life's/reality's oneness.  Maybe it is our never-ending struggle for power, attention, love, money, fame or uniqueness that blinds us to the fact that we are, every single one of us, part of the human race, each made in the image of God, each made individually but collectively making up a part of God's spirit.  (Some people don't acknowledge their role or part, but they are not cut off from those of us who have reconnected to God.)  We compartmentalize families, sexes, races, ages, abilities, etc.  I think that maybe we do this in order to better "handle" certain people; it creates a structure within which we can safely live and remain intact.  But how much strength and passion must we gather in order to reach over and touch someone else's neatly protected soul?  Too much!  It is not intended for humans to live independently; we are one, but we live and grow as fragmented forms of the loving Spirit we have all come from as we strive to be "ourselves."  
   Okay, so we compartmentalize humanity.  Unfortunately, it does not stop there.  We have become so good at it that we set up a well-planned schedule or structure into which we fit our spirituality.  The Episcopalian Eucharist liturgy acknowledges this beautifully by leading us to repent for coming to the table "for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal."  It even leads us as a community to ask for us to be one body and one spirit in Christ.  As one example, it shows how often we set aside certain hours or practices and presume exactly what it should be used for.  (I am in favor of setting aside time for prayer, for example, but I am not in favor of then assuming it should only be used in order to pray for my job or for a friend.)  We bring all of us before God in every moment; forgiveness does not only take place on Sundays when I kneel and repent.  Study and prayer do not only take place on Mondays and Thursdays, but how quickly I find myself directing my spiritual experiences to their appointed places on my calendar.  How beautiful would it be to see my weekly calendar virtually blank because my encounters and talks with God were as natural as eating and breathing!  We rarely confine those things to a place or time-- why would do as much to the Creator of our souls?
    Another example of humanity's compartmentalization crisis, I feel, was portrayed in a conversation I had with a friend over Christmas break.  His girlfriend is very much a humanitarian, but she does not believe that her love or passion for others comes from anything greater, or God, so to speak.  We began discussing why someone would care for another if God did not exist.  I suddenly found that I was asking the wrong question, however.  We had relegated God's love and passion to only people, or humanitarianism-- what about everything else?  Love, passion, desire: these things enable us to do every single thing that we do!  I paint: why?  My friend plays guitar: why?  We all go to jobs: why?  Could it be that this driving passion and love is connected to every single person in the universe and inspires every single act performed?  (I will not go into the twisted ways we have distorted this love and passion--I will only talk about the positive aspect.)  Whether we believe that inspiration to be God or not, it is a unifying force which we desperately try to cover up in order to take credit for our own achievements and actions.  Perhaps my friend's girlfriend could not see her passion as being from God or something greater because she had boxed up the passion as one little gift for one single aspect of her life.  How amazing that this love is so much greater than one aspect of one life!  What credit to God's power and infinite creativity! When all of our compartments have been done away with, I am finding that there is freedom to see that this unbelievable love does exist, and we are, definitely and undoubtedly, connected to and by this love, this passion.  

Thank you for reading; I'm sorry this was so long.  
Jennifer Addis


living stones said...


Thanks so much for posting. I am edified both by what you had to say and by the fact that you spoke.

Compartmentalization. Phew. The opposite, of course, is unification. It's common for mystics (from many faiths--I'm thinking in particular of Walt Whitman) to relate an incredible sense of one-ness with the universe following or corresponding to their "mystical" experience.

I liked everything you had to say. My favorite quote, however, is this: "how much strength and passion must we gather in order to reach over and touch someone else's neatly protected soul? Too much!" Way to go. Isolation. Alienation. Fragmentation. The post/modern predicament. That's what you are talking about, it seems.

One way to counteract it--as you've described--is to realize the spiritual/actual unity that already exists. Another way (and in a large part this is what our community is for) is to do as you've done and share, speak, be vulnerable and come to voice.

Again, thanks a lot for posting. God bless.

-- Paul

racotton said...

I loved your post on our blog. I want to more and more open to the grace and develop the skill to have the freedom you spoke of: "freedom to see that this unbelievable love does exist, and we are, definitely and undoubtedly, connected to and by this love, this passion." Amen!! I believe our "practice" and our community will help us.

racotton said...


I sure enjoyed reading what you wrote. Thanks so much for writing.

You quoted one of my favorite prayers from the Episcopalian Eucharist liturgy about coming to the table "for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal." It is deeply meaningful for me to get to say this aloud in the service, but perhaps in practicing not being compartmentalized (or rather in being more connected) I am able to reflect on it, and say it at other times as well. One of the ways I've thought about it is to see solace as comfort for the present, pardon as forgiveness for the past, but the strength and renewal if for my ongoing walk. I want wholeness. Thanks for helping me make the connections.

And thanks for posting. I'm already looking forward to your next one--

Blog Archive