I just finished reading U.S. Senator Ben Sasse’s book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal.
Published in 2018, it’s an excellent book that deals with the themes of modern loneliness, the monetizing of polarization, and the ways in which technology is making us less free. What I appreciated most about this book, though, is that Senator Sasse does not only present and bemoan the state of affairs. Rather, his preliminary analysis leads to the best part of his book titled, “Our To-Do List” in which he offers some constructive and edifying antidotes.
Particularly relevant to our theme is chapter seven in which he grapples with the conundrum many people face between rootlessness and being stuck: “If you want economic opportunity, then you have to resign yourself to never settling down. But if you’re unwilling, or unable, to commit to being constantly on the move, then you have to resign yourself to being left behind–to being stuck. The unsatisfying choice is between opportunity but no place to call home, or a home in a place where you’ll struggle to pay the bills.”
Ben Sasse and his wife are mobile types – like many of you reading this.
What Senator Sasse has noticed is that mobile types often attempt to justify delaying rootedness by saying things like, “I’ll invest once I’m where I’m supposed to be! I’ll have more time in a year! Once I move into a better neighborhood, I’ll…” However, he points out, “The only community that exists is this one, here and now.”
I think we can all grasp intuitively and as a matter of reflection on experience how important it is for we ourselves and for every member of our community to actually show up and be engaged in our life together. When this is not the case, we miss out on the countless contributions that enable us all to grow and flourish.
Especially with how much time we are all spending online, it’s critical we be reminded that “we’re an embodied people, and we’re meant to connect to our specific place and time.”
Nothing reminds of us this fact quite like contemplating our own cemetery plot. Where, after all, will it be?
Sasse mentions, “Mobile types, I’ve found, are not nearly as interested in this final resting place question. In fact, the idea of a ‘final resting place’ seems uncomfortable to a society increasingly opposed both to permanence and to rest.”
So what’s the prescription? His recommendation is simple:
“Commit anyway, and act as if your body is going to end up in the place where you are. Eventually, you’ll be right.”