i like to travel. it must be rooted somewhere in my montana childhood. there going anywhere means at least a half hour drive and going somewhere might take anywhere from two to six hours on the interstate. i liked growing up in a big state.

travel also means a chance to see good friends from far away. this last week two tea friends (one old and one newly inducted) stopped by on their epic move from NYC to seminary out in vancouver. we met up at some good friends’ apartment out in the suburbs (we didn’t want to risk all our new york friends’ worldly goods on the sometimes sketchy streets of our northside neighborhood). we talked until well past one a.m. (two a.m. for the former east-coasters), about life and theology and attempts at ministry in the city and, of all things, travel (specifically in between speck-on-the-map northern towns in canada’s prairie provinces). we ate some burgers (really good burgers!) and nursed mugs of tea and coffee. it’s nights like these that make life livable, that make life valuable.

growing up in montana meant growing up in-between (a common motif on this blog), in-between the town and home, in-between the culture of a sizeable city and the ranches that surrounded our country church, in between big timber and columbus, helena and havre, missoula and polson. home on the range sits in a funny space, the intersection of rugged individualism and the necessity of cooperation to get anything done at all (if your barn is going to get raised or, better yet, if you’re going to play on a high school basketball team, you need to cooperated with anyone who lives within a fifty-mile radius).

my dad brought this up in a conversation a few nights ago. i was in the middle of a meditation on the felt need of community, strategising ways churches can foster it, structurally and organically, when he broke in. i had just said that for people who don’t dig the every-friday-night bar scene need a place, a consistent group of people to spend their evenings with. “that describes the first thirty years of my life,” he said, “and it only gets worse after you have kids. kids can be really isolating. you get involved in their lives, they demand a lot of your time; and you and your friends gradually drift further apart.” or something to that effect.

to put this another way: i just finished the so-very-good dorothy day autobiography, the long loneliness (still worth a read for any of you readers out there). she draws back in her closing lines, asserting that long loneliness really is life–we find ourselves (and i mean this in the plural) divided, cut off from one another. love, she writes citing st. john of the cross, is the answer. love that comes from Christ, love that binds us together into true community (a revolution of “cult, culture, and cultivation” to borrow a peter maurin line quoted continuously throughout the book).

can we find community on the road? in a sense, that’s what we are always set to do in life. but in a less metaphorical way, how are we to balance our drive to bridge the spaces that separate us from those we love and our need to invest in this place, this neighborhood (where uhaul trucks or stuffed minivans might easily go missing over night), these people, etc.? how might we do it?



July 27, 2008

certain summers are just in-between. maybe in-between is a bad word for it, because the very feeling of in-betweenness arises from not quite knowing what bookends this section of time, not knowing what’s next. this is one such summer.

i know these summers from my reading habits. the last one stretched from a may college graduation to a december flight across the atlantic to macedonia. and there were the months before cindy and i got married and the summer before starting college before that. i tend to read indiscriminately at times like these. these times are secretly relaxing. i know that from how i read too.

i spent the summer before cindy and i married immersed in blake, perusing bertrand russel, and scribbling poetry in worn out comp books (a habit i have yet to break). the summer before macedonia (i tend to think of all the waiting months beginning in may, faltering and rerouting in october, and ending in our departure on december 6 as “summer”) i read bits of foucault, checked out a medieval literature reader, and studied a primer on symphonic composition. this summer i’m bogged down in charles taylor’s masterful a secular age and barth’s first volume of church dogmatics. in between fruitless go’s at these massive texts, i pound out quick terry pratchett novels or whatever comic books the local library contains.

i’ve also been gloriously enraptured in dorothy day’s the long loneliness. augustine’s confessions topped my ma-comps reading list, undoubtedly the most spiritually-incisive of the texts i read. day’s autobiography rings with the same spiritual-yet-this-worldly tones, the same reflective writing style. one thinks of merton’s seven storey mountain. reading the text is refreshing, a stand-in for hours spent walking a creek or watching the waves roll against the beach. it’s been my respite in this stifling hot city of workaday reality.

to close: a pic of my favorite summer read.

Kierkegaard at the Aegean

Reading on the Aegean