Elevators are weird places. You’re crammed in with folks you’ve never met, so you try really hard not to touch them. And nobody talks, except for an occasional “Out, please.” You don’t look at anyone; in fact, you don’t look anywhere but up, watching those dumb floor numbers go on and off.
In a strange sort of way, an elevator is a microcosm of our world today: a crowded, impersonal place where anonymity, isolation, and independence are the norm.
A recently published report by sociologist Ralph Larkin on the crises facing suburban youth underscores several aspects of this new malaise of the spirit. Many children of affluence are depicted as passively accepting a way of life they view as empty and meaningless, resulting in a syndrome that includes “a low threshold of boredom, a constricted expression of emotions, and an apparent absence of joy in anything that is not immediately consumable.”
Exit: involvement and motivation.
Enter: indifference; noncommitment; disengagement; no sharing or caring; meals eaten with headsets turned up loud; separate bedrooms, each with a personal telephone, TV, and private bath; and an it’s-none-of-your-business attitude.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo, author of one of the most widely used psychology textbooks, addressed this issue in a Psychology Today article entitled “The Age of Indifference.” “I know of no more potent killer than isolation . . . . It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder . . . . The Devil’s strategy for our times is to trivialize human existence in a number of ways: by isolating from one another while creating the delusion that the reasons are time pressures, work demands, or anxieties created by economic uncertainty.”
We must come to terms with all this. The need is urgent! Our Savior modeled the answer perfectly. He cared. He listened. He served. He reached out. He supported. He affirmed and encouraged. He touched as well as stayed in touch. He walked with people . . . never took the elevator.
The only escape from indifference is to think of people as our most cherished resource. We need to work hard at reestablishing family fun, meaningful mealtimes, people involvement, evenings without the television blaring, times when we genuinely get involved with folks in need—not just pray for them.
Stop the elevator. I want to get off.
“Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates” (Thomas Mann).
To escape indifference we must see people as our most cherished resource and get involved with folks in need.— Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This