This book analyzes the state of communal living in the midst of the digital age, in the aftermath of the free-everything 1960s, in the wake of disco. Around the same time of this book's release came the seminal Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch, but Vanier more pointedly calls out "the prisons of our egoism" and the consequent pervasive struggle against fear and self-assertion. Vanier watched idealism give way to hedonism and narcissism during the Age of Aquarius, and he anticipated the neglect that would heap on the developmentally disabled in such an age, and so he committed himself--and people have consistently committed themselves ever since--to not just serving the developmentally disabled in some patronizing way but to communing with them, learning from them, joining with them in covenantal community.
Vanier is a realist, which is, I think, what makes him both so gracious and so challenging. Here's a great example, from pages 74-75 of the Paulist edition:
If we are to grow in love, the prisons of our egoism must be unlocked. This implies suffering, constant effort and repeated choices. To reach maturity in love, to carry the cross of responsibility, we have to get beyond the enthusiasms, the utopias and the naivetes of adolescence.
It seems to me more and more that growth in the Holy Spirit brings us from a state of dreaming--and often illusion--to a state of realism. Each of has our own dreams and projects, which prevent us from seeing ourselves clearly and accepting ourselves and others as we are. Dreams throw up strong barriers. They hide the psychological, human and spiritual poverty which we find hard to bear in ourselves. . . . When we discover that God lives in us and carries us, our dreams can disappear without leaving us depressed. We are held by the gift of faith and hope, that fine thread which binds us to God.
People in community ask how they can know if they and it are growing. St. Paul gives a clear indication in his Epistle to the Corinthians: love is not heroic or extraordinary acts. . . . Perhaps the essential quality for anyone who lives in community is patience: a recognition that we, others and the whole community, take time to grow. Nothing is achieved in a day. If we are to live in community, we have to be friends of time.