Today I had, by all accounts, a full day. I met a friend for coffee, sent an e-mail to a professor, talked on the phone to my best friend, kept myself mostly fed, went for a run, sat recumbent by the lake and thought, was friendly with neighbors, met my sponsor and worked on the steps. But throughout I’ve found myself in a kind of lacuna of meaning. Maybe purpose is a better term. I think part of this is too much time thinking and not enough working and teaching, more of it is the fear and frustration at my inability to act on finding a job, and another part wonders if this large emptiness, a thing like a great twilight shadow, is a consistent, a perpetually historical phenomenon that digs into all of us through specific historical trappings. Right now it is the demand to produce and be a productive capitalist (a thing that can fulfill, but by and large is not enough in its own right). But, I think, throughout history there has been a great malaise, lying about like a tepid puddle at the feet of all those who try and trod on.
To my mind, humanity was not born to be alone. No one comes from themselves. If we were to boil down our real existence into an image it might be the campfire, all of us or some of us huddled together in the ongoing night, doing our best to communicate the pain we feel and at times, at moments transcending this state of things with stories and laughter. True bonds. Those are (the bonds in their true form) hard to come by, but deeply sacred. It wards the dark away, flashing like a flare gun and alleviating that persistence inky light of night.
It makes sense to think this, at least, for me, now. I miss my friends, I have so few who are here, who I can touch and be touched by. I am, despite being shy and fearful, someone who craves connection. AA would have me act, as would Hegel, with this knowledge, but the rub is that the mediums through which we reach each other are quite distant themselves. Dating services and Facebook and phones and the like deny our basic physicality and are to wrapped up in being services that want us to return to their service rather than finding a way to share the necessarily unwholesome completeness of human encounters.
To particularize: I can go on Facebook (I don’t mean to pick on it, it’s simply holds the zeitgeist of current state of connection) and maybe, after remembering that my friend does want to hear from me and I’m not burdening their already busy work schedule, send a message. And maybe we trade messages, and maybe even talk on the phone and for a moment there is a feeling of reaching, but we can’t physically grasp each other. There’s nothing skin on skin. We’re left with our own globe shaped skulls spinning their own confused thoughts, with no immediacy to momentarily transcend pointless thoughts that keep us apart.
And I often ask myself, is there a place designed for adults to meet and share sincerely and unabashedly without the aid of social lubricant (I mean booze). Not really. We lack common grounds that are designed specifically for meaningful interaction. Churches do something, parks do something, plenty of places do a little bit, but he tribe around the fire is much smaller than it might have been at other times.
Our families might not be big enough. Our idea of family might not be big enough.
I feel a bit impotent saying all this. It’s not detailed enough, it’s still so abstract, but I know that when I’m alone in the dark and afraid that maybe I could do more, and maybe it never had to be this way.
I live on a quiet little suburb. It’s a long U, with reasonably kept houses that have glowing yellow lights around sunset and flickering TV screens at night. The pavement is cracked enough to feel broken in, comfortable, like the earth and the tar have negotiated a spot for it to stay and moss and weeds can grow without too much hassle. There are kids that play basketball in the street and stand respectfully on the side of the road as I drive by. Some houses endorse Trump, others Clinton, some Sanders. They coexist without much friction. There are small boats and old and new cars that shine on sunny days, and the occasional wave to one another. But sometimes it feels we’re locking ourselves away from each other out of a weird kind of choking privacy. And maybe some of these houses, the house across the street, a deep blue colonial with a lovely stained wood porch and an in ground pool hidden in sight by a tall fence (but not in sound) are actually happy. I see the dad trying to show his four year old how to hold and throw a basketball and the son squeals with delight just to be running around with his father. This could very well be my own troubles outsourced onto the neighbors.
But what if it was different. What if it wasn’t a neighborhood, but a community? With a shared area to gather and cook or read or talk. Is that possible? In fact, maybe a better question is why doesn’t that exist?
There’s a dog park nearby. I love walking past it. The dogs have no trouble meeting and running and sniffing, thick haired German Shepards and beagles and terriers and mutts and the owners mostly stand alone. Some talk, but it’s in a strange cliquish manner where they stand in a corner of the fence and share stories about dog surgeries and trouble training and favorite dog toys. Light stuff, nothing too personal.
I have no idea if we were designed to be together in large tribal units or simply nuclear families. I don’t think the origin story really fucking matters. I know the closest I feel to full is with friends or in an AA meeting, with other fellows sharing laughter and “private” embarrassments. I know I am full when I am open to trusting those that have not proven trust whether and yet in some way, maybe through a story, reciprocate that trust. This is hard to come by day to day.
I think that, if there is to be some radical shift or revolution or change or second coming that the necessary things are already here: Us. Something geared to encourage us to invest in each other. Again, I know how insipid this sounds, how utopian and silly, but it seems vital. Real important change, as far as I can see it, is not a move towards better technology or booming markets and symbolic victories like Caitlyn Jenner gracing Vanity Fair. What is needed is a move towards spirit, or, to put it another way, the recognition that I am not as separate from others as I’ve been taught to think, that it is only through interaction and full recognition of others, as many others as possible, that this great ennui starts to decline. Won’t fix a whole lot of stuff, but a lot of the stuff we (I) worry about will sort of fall away. And I think that, again, with the notion of spirit, it requires social structures that allow each person to find purpose in their own self-directed manner which, I think, points us back towards one another.
I’m afraid this is all a bit… hazy, and lacks nuance, but it’s my least cynical belief. It’s my most humanist belief. It’s one of the few things that lets me suffer the indignities and pains caused by myself and others and continue to firmly assert things can in fact get better. Besides, I think sincere, loving beliefs often tend to be a bit out of focus.
I’m not quite sure how to end this because I don’t think any of this ends. I want to work to turn “prays and thoughts” into spirited efforts to create community that abandons its slavery to the barriers of our own homes, be they psychological or physical.
Does this itch anyone else?