Posts Tagged ‘sociality’

As I was driving down a street this week, I glanced through my driver’s side window and found myself looking through a bus window in the lane besides me. And through my window and the bus window, I saw a set of eyes looking at me. We saw each other through two moving windows — my car, his bus —  right in the eyes, maybe six feet away. He was an older gentleman, Mexican I think, with a serious expression.

We were both moving along the street,  framed in our windows and with that one, short glance we traveled together until I looked back at the road to see where I was going.

As I drove on I wondered, “What was he thinking? Was it, ‘I’m glad I don’t have to drive, that I can just ride home peacefully on the bus.’  or perhaps, ‘I hope someday I have a car again, so I can come and go as I please.'” Was he perhaps thinking about something that has happened to him in a small village in Mexico, where he grew up, thinking so intensely about when he was a child, about that time when his mother …

I don’t know, but it brings up the question for me:  How present am I, in the community of the present, in the collaborative  of the moment, in the social within the now, in the car, watching the man in the bus, in the now of the now within the core of the very now?

I remember Pascal’s observation that we wander around in times that don’t really belong to us. Remembering the past, we miss the present; worrying about the future, we may not even see someone right in front of us.

That happens, but increasingly I am find myself wanting to travel in the present, which means to actually look over and see the man in the bus traveling beside me, to see him in all his obfuscated beauty, to not really understand him but nonetheless to  see him as my companion in the now, and understand that we have a shared, universal human journey, asserted and expressed in the raw, transient and yet extant present.

The bus rider and I share the same street, the same city, the same state, the same country, the same world, the same universe. He is my brother. We share the DNA of the present. We share the current animal, vegetable, mineral, social, political, spiritual now. Am I making too much of this? I am not making enough of this! We have missed, missed, missed and missed this infinitely.

I want to see my world. I want to live fully in it and with it.  To see it, I must look at it. To look at it, I must linger on it, for a moment. I must dawdle in time, fiddle around in the present, goof off in the slip and slide of the near and the immediate. Indeed, after seeing the man on the bus,  I should have pulled over at the next bus stop and gotten on, introduced myself as the man in the car, and asked him about himself. Then I would have discovered a bit of how different from me he is, and how much the same, how perhaps, he is really me, and I am him.

I have lived in the same community for a long time.  I know a lot of people! I talk with people all day long. Do I need another conversation, do I need another friend? Do I need to be getting on busses when I have a car, to be accosting old men on public transportation?

I do! We do! We should! We have not even begun to enter into what is present for us, to bridge, to connect, to converse, to empathize, to understand, to laugh, to grieve, to know each other, to actually see, touch, think with and understand each other.

There are no projects, no work loads, no places to get to, no duties waiting here, no responsibilities lingering there that should keep glass between us.

There are no class or economic or social or racial or religious differences that are so compelling that these should keep us from busing a short while with each other.

There are no memories so strong as to erase the moment of your unique presence here on this street with me; there are no worries so strong as to obscure the immediacy of the precious you-ness of you here with me.

I have a prayer I have been praying, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to live in the uniqueness of the social now.

“God, I beg you, send me my people. Send me Indian people. Send me Chinese people. Send me Brazilian people. Send me Mexican people. Send me anyone you wish, but please send them all. God, I beg you, drive your bus up my street and bring me my people so that I can befriend them and take care of them.”

Why pray this?

I pray this out of the awareness that this is my present-tense reality, and that I want more of it  — the bus, the window, another person, our eyes meeting.

There really is nothing else here, right now except this kind of divine, immediate sociality. The past is gone, the future not yet come, nothing but the present moment and all the beautiful people God sees fit to give me in it.


It’s 5:23 am. I’m alone, sitting in my chair with my coffee, thinking, the cats camping out on my lap and nearby.

Last night I went to my friend Tim’s retirement party. About 75 people were there. We qued up for pizza, pasta, and chicken fingers and told stories about various explosions and fires connected to Tim.  Tim confessed at one point,  in a moment of hilarious candor, after numerous fireworks and burning-engine and flaming-Christmas-tree stories,  “I love fire!”

Then he paced the floor thanking people and honoring others and making jokes and flailing his arm about like a puppet in the hands of a maniac,  as he is wont to do when he gets excited, which is always. Tim is no sleepy house cat. He is a wild cat, a man on fire. For a few years he was in the habit of taking 75 or so Christmas trees to the desert, roping them together and lighting them on fire.

This morning, sitting alone with my coffee, thinking about Tim, it comes to me that when life is social, warm, burning, it is best, and that it is always social.

Alone is a fiction. There is no being alone. In a sence I am never alone, because I know Tim.

Tim is one of my very best friends. I’ve known Tim for about 35 years. He was the best man in my wedding. We have a lifetime of talks and some crazy adventures and some rough times too.  I rely on Tim; he relies on me. If he were to do something out of character that brought shame to him, I would feel the shame too. If I were to do something wrong, something out of character, something out of alignment with the good reputation that I have in the community, something that disgraced me, Tim would be disgraced too. And in this way, we are accountable to each other, and not really alone in our behaviors and choices.

We have fed each others fire; we burn for some of the same causes; we have each others backs.

Sometimes we speak of privacy. I write this in a private moment. We have created places of privacy, homes and fenced yards and bathrooms, but we don’t see this thing of isolation even close to correctly. Even in those more hidden places, we are never alone.  Our friends are there, and there is something else there, and on this  I am finally getting my mind straight.

God is there, everywhere, always with me. Privacy is a myth.  The Bible, that best book on life and God and reality, says that God watches us, that he sees it all, that his eyes cast around to see who relies on him and he energizes those who do. Last night when I watched Tim lounging about the room, arms up and down, laughing and waving and yelling and creating warmth and love and kindness in the room, I saw a man filled with God, not alone, fueled up on the watching eyes of God.

And I get it more now, although not yet as I will get it when I finally begin to wake up to our utter and complete and irrevocable not-aloneness. God is omniscient. God sees, it all, and when we know that, and live in that, and live as if that is true, which hardly anyone I ever met does, then we are different. If there is no privacy, then my behavior changes, because there is perpetual accountability and endless energy to do the right thing.

Listen, someone else is always in the room! I am growing wisely paranoid. We are being watched! And we are always creating stories than can and will be told. There is no movement of our fingers that isn’t part of the plot that is being written for public consumption, that can’t be told and retold as we live and then retire from work and love and hate and life.

This begs, pleads for, falls down and cries for the question: How would we live if every moment were filmed and shown at every moment to everyone? It is! God sees every moment of our lives. He is consistently present. He even knows our every thought.  And so we must each one always ask ourselves, “Do I want to do this right now, think this right now, live this out right now, seeing that God is right now watching me and recording my story?”

It burns in me! Pile on more Christmas trees. It explodes. Set off more fireworks. It smolders in me and in you, the glowing ember of God. It flares up in every moment, and it makes me want to live smart, aware, different, as if the lights are never off, and they aren’t and we are never, ever, thankfully ever — alone.

We are living public stories. We are always living out what will be told at our retirement party. We are always fighting off fire, or letting it burn in us. We are irrevocably public, and we would do well to live as if the whole world and God were always watching.

It is.

He is.

Having different kinds of friends — so very interesting.

I have a bounce-off-of friend. I bounce stuff off him to see what it looks like coming back toward me with his spin on it. It’s helpful, the curve my ideas take on the rebound.  Yesterday we spent an hour on the phone debating the growth curve of organizations. Fascinating.

I have a never-let-go friend. She is my stick-tight friend. We have waded through years and yards of stuff, and she is still there. I love the safety of such a friend.  This week we reflect on a relational train wreck we both witnessed and survived. I totally adore, her loyalty — to me.

I have a calls-when-he needs-help friend. I don’t mind. I like being the go-to-guy for him. I like how he trust that what I say, or that what I don’t say,  is good. It’s good for me to be there for him,  in the sacred moment, when the masks come off. This week he told me that when he drove away from the house, after the fight, it was as if he was moving through a dream. “I couldn’t believe that I was doing,” he told me, “what  I could see myself doing, leaving, like that.” It was good, to deconstruct the dream, that was really — reality.

I have a conceptual friend. When we meet, ideas meet. We talk insights, theories, axioms, intellectual constructs. We discourse on aesthetics, theology, history, sociality. Recently we explored the kind of creativity that can arise out of devastation. Our friendship exists within the universe of our ideations. I love an abstraction, that we invent and then that we event. It  becomes other people’s reality. Fine, so very fine!

The other day I thought about a friend who is not longer a friend. We went through something hard and this friend didn’t understand what was to be understood within the thin and quickly ripping fabric of possible understanding and so we went on down the road with the clothing that had previously covered us, ripped completely off, and I found myself traveling alone. It happens. I recovered myself with the warm embrace of new friends.

It’s very interesting, the variation of sociality.

It is very interesting, the morph, the seed, the stalk, the bloom, and the sometimes surprisingly quick wilt of togetherness, the amazing sustainability of real love.

What to do?

Enjoy, the sweet ones you have been  given.

Grieve, the once dear ones, occasionally lost.

Look forward to the precious ones still to come.