Okay, I’m not really in the snow drinking hot cocoa. I stole this picture off my friend’s Facebook album because it made me happy.
I’m still in Southern California where the sky is drooling and I’m busy. (Those were unconnected thoughts.) I live in a house with a bunch of other busy people. We love and care deeply about each other, but on some days the closest we get to one another is when we’re competing for use of the microwave. Without a common social group, a common history, a common stage in life, commonality in our daily endeavor, shared experience, hobbies, loves, without even, at times, a common perspective on God, finding a deep connection in the hours sheared off at the beginning and end of days can be hard. I’m commonly amused at the irony of applying the word “community” to such a motley lot, however much I love them.
Modern life doesn’t lend itself to authenticity, even when you’re suffering. Or more so then. And when real relationships fail, real words can help. Whether it’s saying them, or hearing them, writing them, reading them, finding them. I’ve been reading a lot lately. I borrowed some books of poetry, and some on poetry and one on India from the library, and they have a way of tying me up when I’m unraveling internally, or making me feel like less of a sham when life seems purposeless. I’ve read the preface of one of them, “Good Poems for Hard Times” (ed. Garrison Keillor) over and over again. Keillor writes,
People complain about the obscurity of poetry, especially if they’re assigned to write about it, but actually poetry is rather straightforward compared to ordinary conversation with people you don’t know well which tends to be jumpy repartee, crooked, coded, allusive to no effect, firmly repressed, locked up in irony, steadfastly refusing to share genuine experience – think of conversation at office parties or conversation between teenage children and parents, or between teenagers themselves, or between men, or between bitter spouses: rarely in ordinary conversation do people speak from the heart and mean what they say. How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart? . . . Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn’t matter – poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart.
He goes on to talk about in culture what I was just talking about in relation to my house mates. A loss of commonality:
The common life is precarious. I fear a future in which America becomes a loose aggregate of marauding tribes — no binding traditions, no songs that we all know, not even ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ or ‘Silent Night,’ no common heroes, no American literature . . . There are no more TV shows that everyone knows: 10 percent of audience is a huge hit. The last singer recognizable to everyone was Frank Sinatra; the last poet known far and wide was Robert Frost. There are no replacements in sight. Today celebrities are people whom most Americans haven’t heard of.
This, I think, is a question that matters. It matters for life, for friendship in this distant, expanded, digital and post-modern world; it matters for marriage and it matters for ministry, especially cross-culturally.
How much can you really share of yourself with someone whom you share nothing else?