Ending isolation and loneliness is imperative if we are to overcome the epidemic of depression in our community.
By Dr. Nabi Raza Abidi
We live in times where many families do not eat together. Children spend their time watching TV, playing video games and texting their friends from the privacy of their bedrooms. Adults take buses or walk the streets texting or talking on their phones. We see people sitting in coffee shops with their friends while talking to someone else on the smartphone. Although we live together, many of us live together in isolation. As John Taylor Gatto once said, thanks to the privatization of the individual, traditional communities have transformed into networks of of people” or networks of isolated individuals.
Religious life is not an exception. Many of our spiritual lives are lived in isolation. Duas are reserved for financial and health problems, or at the most, a family member who is in some kind of trouble. Yet prayers for the success of the community, neighbors and people whom are unrelated to us can be rare. Prayers or salat (namaz) are also privatized. Some purposefully avoid the Mosque and congressional prayers most of the year thus eroding the sense of a Muslim community.
Our youth and indeed adults need to learn the importance of speaking directly with their friends and family instead of texting them most of the time. Children should be taken out on the weekends and join other families so they can connect. Grandparents should be taken on picnics where they can share the stories of their youth to today’s youth. Joining SABA Islamic center camps or outdoor annual events are not enough, they are the first step.
Isolation is a depressing threat to our way of life. Many younger people have lost their communication skills or are disconnected from the memories of the older generation, especially that of their grandparents. But this need not be. It takes effort and commitment to build family and community. It also takes fighting destructive habits. Perhaps a good exercise is to turn off gadgets and TVs for 2 hours a night where families can spend quality time together. Maybe play with a puzzle, or share their stories, or even invite extended family over. The answer to loneliness and depression is to rebuild human relationships, by transforming networks of isolated individuals into communities again.
Nabi Raza Abidi
Resident Imam of the SABA Islamic Center
San Jose, California