Pope Francis has impressed most people around the world with his integrity and worldly realism. I was particularly inspired by some of his thinking in the 2013 document, ‘Evangelii Gaudium’: ‘To go out of ourselves and join with others is healthy for us’. These words emboldened my shaping of the tag-line for Our Health: ‘pursue with others what you wish for yourself’.
Pope Francis goes on to express ‘the challenge of finding and sharing a mystique of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another’. I was intrigued by this ‘mystique of living together’. What is it, and how can it motivate us toward healthy ways of living and being?
Religious groups have various ways of answering that. Christian churches point to the unfolding of a divine reality in the day to day. Members are encouraged to experience the partial presence of God and to hasten the time when God is fully present. This collective belief and experience binds people to rituals and patterns that aspire to being mutually supportive.
But what of those who do not share such beliefs? If they accept the health benefits of joining with others, might they also value some form of relational ‘mystique’? Humanism has traditionally sought out meaning in the absence of belief. The recent emergence of Sunday Assemblies demonstrates increasing interest in people seeking meaning in non-religious belonging. But these initiatives have yet to carry a compelling ‘mystique’ that inspires and binds people.
The Pope will naturally share the wisdom of a religious mind-set. But his assertion of the benefits of joining with others appears to be universal. What might be the binding stories and ideas that generate a compelling mystique of living together in a less religious world? Might this mystique emerge from the aspirations of people together seeking health and wellbeing?