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Humans in mind, body are elementally social

By Fritz Fritschel

LAST UPDATED: 2:21 a.m. HST, Jun 21, 2010

What is all the fuss about the word "social" when it is applied to a political system or some policy, some social policy?

What is not social? That is, what is there that does not have some connection, some relationship with another entity?

Fritz Fritschel

Early in the 20th century, Alfred North Whitehead wrote about the concept of "simple location." In the scientific world that concept provided a basis for exploring and examining the physical world. But such exploration always employed the method of abstracting elements from the observed phenomena. Such a method proved incredibly valuable.

But theories of relativity emerging in the 20th century began to recognize that nothing is "simply located," except for the purpose of isolating observations. Any entity is always in some kind of relatedness. It is only in abstraction that one can isolate a system. The concrete experience, the actual event, is always seen within the web of interconnectedness. It is social.

Biblically, the apostle Paul makes use of the metaphor of the body to describe aspects of the church. Various parts of the body play differing roles in a cooperative enterprise. Each part of the body adds to the well-being of the whole when it is healthy. Even when one part is ailing or infected, the effects permeate the entire body. The body is a community, a society. The body is social.

We can carry that analogy down to smaller and more elemental levels of being, whether within our bodies or within nature.

Someone has written about the organic sympathy that elements share with one another. They absorb aspects of their environment and struggle to synthesize that data in a creative way.

They not only aim toward their own satisfaction, but they also are contributing influences to other entities. They receive data and project their own experience. They are social.

The same basic pattern can be used to describe the divine presence within the world. The pattern of giving and receiving can be seen within the divine dimension. That is to say, there is a projection, a lure, an envisagement of divine aims given to entities. Entities are free to embrace or reject such aims.

But further, God can be thought of as receiving all the ongoing events and experiences of the world into the divine experience - and then continuously offering new appropriate possibilities for each emerging occasion. Such interaction is social. One writer has identified it as "a social concept of God."

One acquaintance told me, "I don't think I'll ever need any help from anyone." I am sure that he did not mean that he was going to be his own police force, his own fire department, grow his own crops, weave his own clothes, write his own dictionary, direct and produce his own Broadway musicals. We need each other as human beings, as a community, as a society. We are social.


Fritz Fritschel is a retired Lutheran minister.

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