“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani!” According to the Gospel of Matthew, these are the last words uttered by Jesus before he breathed his last breath. The phrase is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I’ve struggled with the thought of Jesus, the incarnation of God, feeling forsaken by God. Could the human experience of suffering best described as forsaken seem greater the power of God?
I’ve heard too many stories about someone who committed suicide or had survived an attempt in which I hear the cry of hopelessness. The victims or survivors of suicide tell the story of feeling alone or isolated. I imagine that at some point in their despair they must have prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s this point of complete loss of hope that a person finds themselves yearning for an end to suffering. Too many victims of bullying find hope for the end of their reality beyond this life.
Last summer, Jonah Mowry made a video expressing his dread of going back to middle school because he had been bullied by classmates. His friends, who were older thus going to high school, and family were so moved by his emotional expression that he was encouraged to upload it to YouTube. His hopeful story immediately went viral. Within one week, hundreds, if not thousands, of his bullied allies uploaded their responses via YouTube. These new friends uttered deep empathy from their own experience.
Social Media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. has expanded our contact with other humans, whether expanding the mode of bullying or making new friends. The world has bore the bane and miracle of the World Wide Web. It has virtually reduced the size of the world. Almost anything is now available at the click of your right index finger. Most anyone can be welcomed to your living room. You can tweet your deepest thoughts with the entire world, check in at the Gap with your BFF, be the mayor of Farmville, and reconnect with the boy you sat behind in first grade. Facebook allows us to stalk our present friends and relive school memories with past friends. Social Media are places where people from around the world can unite around their love of the Twilight saga or reveal their wounds inflicted by bullying peers. In a sense the realm of the internet is both static and persistent, real and virtual, big and small, fact and fiction.
A great example of this mode of relationship formation beyond Facebook and MySpace is the world of MMORPG, i.e. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Not only can gamers connect with friends or make new friends, gamers can escape this life for a fantasy realm. Dungeons and Dragons Online, World of Warcraft, Forsaken World, Aion or Eternal Lands are just a few MMORPG that transcend the static single player or multi-user games on a local gaming system to a persistent abstract world full of avatars. Avatars are persona customized by gamers who develop their mystical powers as they use their gifts to heal others, defend others, or defeat enemies. As avatar are developed and interact with other avatar, gamers develop and nurture friendships with other gamers.
Here’s the story of a game called Forsaken World. Gamers befriend others and make enemies in a world where creation and destruction are at war. The story goes: “In the beginning 2 gods existed – Dyos and Nyos, they were the rulers of the universe and could create and destroy as they saw fit.” Over the 10 million years Dyos lived in Eyrda, he and other gods created a beautiful and wonderful world. Dyos bestowed the care of Eyrda to his children Tytan, Illyfue and Vyda. These children created races of people to fill it. Nyos comes to Eyrda intending to destroy it. Lured away by Dyos, Nyos leaves a son, Mylvada in Eyrda who “yields the power to destroy and the appetite for destruction.” Among Mylvada and Tytan, Illyfue and Vyda, the powers to destroy and create war against one another.
The game Forsaken World parallels reality well. We were created by God and charged with the care of Earth. All of the creatures who share our domain were created by God. The beauty and wonder of this world were created by God. There is a force capable of destruction which many call Satan. However, we know from the Revelation of St. John that evil will not reign – God wins!
The book of Revelation sustains our hope in times we feel forsaken. The Divine revelation in Jesus Christ sustains our faith that we are not forsaken. Our faith in the Risen and Living Christ is not dependent on a physical face requiring shared time and space. We don’t need to meet Christ face-to-face to know that God is ever present in our lives. We develop our relationship with God through prayer, reading, giving, serving and just spending some time with God. In none of those activities do we actually see God’s face.
So, do we need face time to develop relationships with our brothers and sisters? Do we need to sit in the same physical space with others to form friendships? I say, “no.” Sure, it helps, but we have known for a long time before Social Media that we can maintain relationships without being in one’s presence. For hundreds of years, we have maintained relationships through letters and phone calls. We’ve developed foreign friendships as pen pals.
With Social Media, we have a new way of maintaining and developing friendships. In videos posted on YouTube, Jonah Mowry was encouraged and encouraged others world wide to be strong and stand united against bullying armed with the knowledge that life exists beyond this present Hell. Through gaming, we befriend others seeking to escape to a mystical dimension. On Facebook, we relive a childhood which oftentimes we view through rose-colored lens. On match.com or gay.com, men and women first meet their life partners whom they’ve searched for in Sociology 101 and every dive bar near campus.
Social Media gets a bad rap for changing the dynamics of forming relationships; yet, friendships are formed in spite of not sharing space. It amazes me the ability of people to form authentic relationships online. It works because written within Social Media is a very real part of the human narrative. We need not feel forsaken, because someone out there can relate to our reality. That truth takes the sting out of suffering. Surely, Jesus didn’t need a tweet to remember that.
May the Christ child be born anew this year as a new friend,
Picture is a still frame of Forsaken World accessed on 12072011 from: http://images.google.com/imgres?q=forsaken+world&hl=en&biw=968&bih=675&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=L7kqq-Ek8D0VCM:&imgrefurl=http://www.gamefront.com/forsaken-world-developer-diary-2-video/&docid=z8HaM_NbqFBP-M&imgurl=http://cdn.gamefront.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Forsaken-World-615.jpg&w=615&h=315&ei=qOLfTrmWBvGu2gXA8_yqBQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=472&vpy=394&dur=171&hovh=161&hovw=314&tx=193&ty=56&sig=101553821945009735778&page=7&tbnh=96&tbnw=187&start=72&ndsp=12&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:72