Relationship: A Thought for Tomorrow

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Our generation has seen quite a lot of changes in almost all areas of human life. One of the major areas where we experience change during our time is the area of communication. Few decades back communication facilities were quite primitive and methods were in fact crude. Today, we who live in the age of advanced Information Technology can not imagine of those times with lot of hurdles and limitations. However, a perfect communication is still a dream for many of us.

Communication basically works through images and symbols. Unless we are able to understand these symbols and images, we will not be successful in communication. We know that computers can exchange information only if compatible transmission is being done between them. Yes, in the world of communication compatibility is a primary requirement. When a person’s understanding of express love does not meet with the understanding of express love of another person, loving becomes impossible. For certain children love of parents should manifest in granting them freedom to do any and every thing they want to. But for the parents, controlling the children and molding their lives, as they consider best, are the right way of expressing their love. Here two different groups interpret the concept of love in two entirely different and contradicting ways. When people of this type are to live together, conflict is inevitable because there will no communication be occurring in their midst. However, both parties will be saying that they are trying to communicate to the other parson. This is where, in the modern world, faith in a religion should help people.

Faith primarily is relationship. Many times people have tried to interpret the term faith as believing in something, which is not seen or experienced. But believing and experiencing is very much subject to the mutual relationship. On the other hand relationship itself is determined by communication. In the Old Testament the first attempt by God to establish a relationship with the people of Israel was in the context of the experience of liberation. We see, in the Book of Exodus Ch.3, Moses asking the name of God who appeared to him in the burning bush. God was trying to communicate to him about the need to liberate the people of Israel. But Moses was not having the necessary rapport or relationship with God to understand him; and hence he was not ready to take it from God. Then God showed him his shepherd-staff turning into a snake and back. This was a symbol for Moses; a symbol that tells Moses, that God can change the shape, nature and usefulness of a thing into another. Moses was able to relate this symbol of change with the need of his people for the change in their slavish situation. This was also a symbol of God’s loving care towards Moses and his kinsmen. Thus a relationship was established between Moses and God. Moses was now ready to believe God. He readily accepts the responsibility of leading his people out of Egypt.

The initiative of establishing a relationship and creating the best symbol for expressing that relationship comes from God. Israel found this symbol working in the Exodus event. One of the greatest symbols history has ever created to express love of one toward another is the cross. It tells humans of the change of death and deadly forces in to life and life-giving forces. It also speaks of the liberative love of God towards humans. The act of cross was initiated by God. However since cross is an all time symbol, we need to create current and relevant symbols which will be suitable for our changing situations, but still related to and well founded on the classic symbol, the cross.

The Cross, as I said earlier, is the symbol of the caring love of God which is also a paradigm for mutual love for humans and it speaks of the possibility of transition of evil to good. In this world, we are many times confronted with multitude of symbols and images. We should be able to identify these symbols in the light of the great symbol cross. Taking our old example of parent child relationship, the parent should always try to evaluate the symbols through which he/she is trying to express his/her love to the child in the background of cross. One way of comparison is to try to see whether the symbol really liberates the child or not. The cross is also a symbol of giving away what was precious to one  life - for the sake of the other. The parent can consider whether he/she is trying to love the child for the sake of him/her or for the liberation of the child itself. Many parents consider their children as a proud property, which gives them satisfaction and joy. Yes, children through their life and work give the parents lot of satisfaction and joy. But when it becomes a demand on the part of the parents, it will be felt as a burden on the part of the children and the immediate reaction will be to defend themselves against, and to reject the content of that symbol. This takes away the possibility of an effective communication between parents and their children. This could happen vice versa too. Our challenge for tomorrow is to find out new and effective symbols that we may communicate effectively and meaningfully.

Let me bring to you another important area where this theory works; that is the area of husband and wife relationship. No matter how deep the husband may love his wife, unless it is expressed through the right kind of symbols, the wife may misunderstand it and could right away reject it. This will be the end of their effective mutual communication and a healthy relationship between. There will emerge a situation where even if they live together on social compulsion, they still be separate in effect. This could happen in any form of relationship that we see in our midst.

Our religious life should help us to formulate symbols of relationship compatible in all sense for a peaceful and healthy life here in this world. Prayer shall be a good and effective means of evaluating the compatibility of symbols. In prayer we constantly look to God and try to see the symbol of cross so as to compare it with our current symbols with a readiness to make necessary changes in them. In prayer we also stand before God to create new symbols for our relationship with God and also with others. These symbols shall become ethical norms for a whole community. No symbol humans use is all time useful. Usefulness of symbols can vary according to change in social, economic and religious atmosphere and context. Having several children in the family was a symbol of a good family during the earlier times. These days no family will be considered, under normal conditions, a healthy one if they have more than two or three children.

In an agriculturist context having several bulls and cattle were considered symbols of wealth and prosperity. These days having them will be a burden and something primitive. In earlier times, in line with the male dominated social setting, love of husband towards wife and vice versa were expressed through the symbol of dominance and subordination. These days it is being changed to more of participatory and mutuality patterns. Unless we keep on revising our symbols according to the changes in socio-economic world we might become irrelevant to the world around us. Hence our prayer before our God shall be to help us formulate appropriate symbols and models to express our relationship. This is how we grow to the fullness of mutuality. God’s salvific work in Christ in this world was aimed at making relationships perfect and fully functional. St. Paul puts it well enough when he said that ‘Jesus Christ pulled down the dividing wall between God and human and between human and human’.  We, in this world, are trying to work out this mission which God initiated in Jesus Christ, in and through our own lives and in our socio-religio-politico life situations.

The world is becoming more and more complex, confusing and complicated. There are newer and advanced advertisement methods through which every product is brought before us. In advertisement selling the maximum quantity is the primary, if not sole, objective. Here each relationship and the symbols that express these relationships will be on the billboard of advertisement. The advertisement world tells us that husband expresses his love towards his wife by buying a particular product in the marker. It also tells us that for children doing education should have a particular Ayurvedic tonic. It is easy for us to be lured in to that world and might think that these are truly the symbols to express our relationship with others. We could very well see a shift in value in this process. In such a situation we at the user end should be more prudent and careful to identify which is the best suitable symbol for us so that we may have a better and healthy relationship between. This is how the kingdom of God is being established in here. Let us pray to God that he may help us to identify and make use of the best symbols to express our relationship with God and with one another and that we may have meaningful communication occurring.