Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Community... a necessity. Follow me as I meander, and at the end of our journey, let me know if I come close to hitting the mark. All my life I considered myself as a loner. A "cat" if you will. There are cat people and dog people. Dog people are the extroverts, must always be around people, and quite often are the center of attention. Cat people are more introverted. Being around people, but seperate. On the outskirts of the crowd, or they just shun the crowd entirely and sit on the veranda sipping their cocktail of choice, listening to the laughter, watching the night, and quite often wishing that they could feel comfortable "in" the crowd. That was me. Oh, I could get into the crowd and have fun. Usually it was only so I could hide behind a camera. Every party or gathering I would join in, but feel completely alone, and I was always hoping that someone (hopefully that beautiful woman three feet away with the brown eyes and great smelling tresses, but it could be anybody really) would look over and invite me community.

You see, there is a difference between community and friendship. I have had, without bragging, hundreds of friends. Many of them very close. But even in a group of friends, close friends, I was alone. With every laugh, every smile, every joke, every tear, a little part of me died. I never really felt that I fit in. That I was accepted. That I was wanted. Was I there because of "me"? Or because I was a friend of so-and-so, and it wasn't polite to invite them without inviting me? I can't speak for you, but I have come to the realization that I am/was not alone in that feeling. Quite often, the people who "fit" in the group felt/feel the same way.

To paraphrase a wise man, "To know and be known..." I "know" Poet, LL, Reflections, and Monkeyhouse (just to name a few), but do they know me? Notice, "know" was in quotations. I know them as friends, and a little more, but do I know them...or the "real" them? Friendship? Or Community? Personally, I feel that what I feel for most of my close friends this last two years IS community. And yet I wonder. God, do I hate my insecurities. And we continue to seek community in whatever way we can find it. If we are comfortable with it, it is going to bars and trying to pick up a good looking specimen of the opposite sex. It might be buying a nice car, because you now fit into the "community" of other owners of that car. There is a common denominator that allows easy conversation between you and that other person. You could buy a boat, or a bike. As I talked with Poet about when I visited last. Bikers are a great community. It doesn't matter what you ride (cruiser, foreign, crotch rocket), you are always giving complements about any bike you come across, and you wave at every biker you pass, and if you sit next to one at a stop light you talk to them. THAT was a run-on to make Mrs. Corley curl into a ball and whimper for a month. Same with boats. You own a boat. You wave at every other boater you cross. If at a lakeside concert or some other event where there are a multitude of boats, you tie up together until there is a good size chain of you sitting stern to stern. You don't care if you are a Boston whaler, a Catalina 400, or the Queen Elizebeth 2. And this is all to feel community. Quite often, you aren't friends with the person. You have never seen them before in your life, but there is a sense of community there. And for a time, that hole if filled.

Another example. I was walking down the road today, going from the bike shop where my bike was waiting to be worked on, and the Honda dealership down the road. To get there, I had to walk along this road that had a nice flat, un-cluttered verge of grass to walk sidewalk. There was a definite path worn down in the grass that wandered a bit back and forth. Without thinking about it, I followed the path about half the distance. Then the thought struck me, "Why am I following this path?" It didn't wind around obstacles, I could "cut cross-country" and I would be walking in a straight line (not windy), over cut grass (not much longer than that on the path). Why did I follow the path then? It was no easier than going cross country, but I did it anyway. Call it a herd mentality or community, you feel closer when following where others have gone before. You don't feel alone. I DID leave the trail, but it took an almost palpable effort of will to do it.

My mother this last weekend, said over the campfire, that it seemed like it didn't bother me too much to strike out on my own and move to places where I knew not one soul. Moving from Nebraska to Tulsa to Dallas. And I agreed with her, but that thought has rankled in my brain for almost three days now. It DOES bother me. I hate it. I can no longer even hide in friendships and try to pass that off as community. I am truly alone, and my soul ACHES because of it. I know, I know, God is with me. I know that, but so often I don't feel it. And then I do feel it, but that moment isn't enough to help the days/weeks/months. Phone calls and emails help with this. Maybe this is why I started to blog, it is even more personalbe than phone or email. The ability to stay in touch is a God-send, but I need flesh and blood contact. To see the soul of the person through their eyes. Poetangel captures that feeling great here. I honestly feel that the lack of community is why so many college students, and especially graduated MKs, go completely stir crazy in college. They are searching for community in frat houses, sorority bashes, night clubs, and in the arms/bed of another person and when they can't find it, drinking and drugs are used to dull the pain of the lack.

My, my, how I have rambled here and yon, rabbit trail leading to rabbit trail. I used the past tense when describing myself earlier, "I considered myself as a loner." That was no accident. I am a dog. A cat can come and go from people. Dogs go insane if left behind. Only thing is, a dog lets you know that as he is left...a human just hurts, buries it, goes on, and gets an ulcer. No more. I am a "dog." Leave me behind, and I will be vocal. Leave you behind, and I will howl. Come, commune with me; and if you can't, let us make the heavens shake, shiver, and moan as our cries go out into the night because of the loss we feel for each other. This is me, is this you? We have reached the end of this journey. I believe I have never been this open and bare to anyone in my life and so I now quote Yeats.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with the golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…

William Butler Yeats

Know me, that I may know you.


angelp said...

I answered, the only way I know how. Poem for you on the blog.

LiteratureLover said...

Wow, what a post! Thank you for your complete and total honesty. I have to admit that I have been a "cat" myself. And I think you're right, everyone feels that total aloneness in a crowd. Community. That is a beautiful word. I love how you described the community of bikers and boaters. It is amazing how we long for it and yet, we don't lay down our walls to reveal anything. I am so guilty of that. You've inspired me to commune more openly. Thank you.

thebarefootpoet said...

Invitation accepted! Lets go to the core of our souls and see what we find. What a honest, heart pouring start your post is. Now, just to hear it over some dark beer or spiced rum.

Daniel Sharples said...

Amazing what goes on in the human soul. I am that person in the crowd too, wondering if others notice or care to engage me. That's when I choose to let my vulnerability hide and I attempt to project an image of myself onto others that isn't really true. Sure, it has shades of who I am but not my genuine self.

I pray that we can work on these issues, and I think thats one reason why we have community.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

If I had known that my question at that campfire would have torn the scab off of a well covered wound, I would not have asked it. But if by unknowingly asking, you have thought something that rankles your soul, and lights a fire in your words so that no one is left mistaken on how much your heart wants to be known, then yes, I am glad I asked it.

By being 'alone' in Dallas, which means, not being in Norfolk, or not being in Tulsa, or Mexico or India, you are going to be relentless and urgent: a hunter with hunger pangs. May God keep you baying and praying for community. Only a few of us in the world know the power of your loyal heart and strength. I am very jealous that many know that Ben. I love you, Mom

Oh, and happy 25th birthday on July 12 in case that is not common knowledge.

debs said...

I stumbled onto your blog the other day. What fun to find you! It was like a blast from the past. You were a part of my life for so long and then I hand no idea where you were. Now I know where you are and I know so much more than I ever knew before. I've enjoyed reading your thoughts. I feel ya on the whole being alone in a crowd thing. I've felt than my entire life and am just now learning to let go and let myself be who God created me to be. It's so freeing!

Anonymous said...

to my oldest friend. to one of the bravest people i know. thank you for saying what we all have wanted to say for so long. happy birthday - and i think pinta would still love you even if she found out you are a dog. so much love