I’m in my cave. I didn’t realize I was because I’m not “supposed to” be. I have assignments due tonight that I haven’t even begun reading for. My man is out of town, leaving the parenting fully in my corner for a few days. And yet here I am. Drinking tea, baking, doing puzzles and listening to Brandi Carlile. I knew that my intensive experience was forming me towards something. I’m picking up on the hints of what the future may hold. Choosing this grad program put me on a path. But it’s a trailblazing kind of path, not the kind that lands everyone (or anyone) is the same place at the end. I did that on purpose. Nevertheless, I am heading somewhere. And the hints are starting to pile up. I wonder if every semester after intensive I’ll be found in my cave processing. If I have to guess? Probably.
The piece I’m chewing on today is community. Part of what we’re learning in my Salvation and Human Identity class (can you imagine a more captivating subject for me than human identity? Nope. Doesn’t exist) is that humans are primarily relational. This seems obvious. But our time in history is fully built on what my professor called the “buffered self.” We make a lot of distinctions between ourselves and others. Just look at the shit show that is our political world right now. The other-ing is rampant. And repugnant. But that’s a different conversation.
So the question is, how do we become porous people (vulnerable, relational, compassionate, interdependent) when we live in a buffered world? In some ways, this is a well trodden path for me. I swear my life goal is to not be an asshole. And in order to not be an asshole, I must remain soft. It also kinda threw a wrench in my work on boundaries and freaked me out to an extent. It has been so critical for my health (especially as a 2 with a savior complex and a perfectionist black and white brain) to figure out what’s mine to hold and what isn’t. I’ve decided to stand by that work, knowing my porous self is still going to require boundaries. Maybe my instincts are innately porous and living in a buffered world has necessitated a bit of buffering just for survival. I don’t know. But porous living can’t be codependency. That doesn’t help anybody. Yea for life-long quests.
The reason I’m bouncing these ideas off the walls of my cave today is because whatever my future holds, I’m getting the hint (wily minx strikes again!) that it will involve a community. I love working with others anyway. I’ve been on my own so much with work and primary parenting (how many stay at home parents feel that way!!!) that it would thrill me to be part of something outside of just my ideas and ambition. But I’m wondering if whatever is coming involves more than collaboration. It might involve intentional community. I’ve met several people who have done my grad program and created intentional communities. While they’re all unique, the thread between them is the human need for unconditional love and support. As much as social media makes us think we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, people are fucking lonely. I think this buffered/porous thing is part of it.
We had the privilege of hearing from Paul Sparks from Parish Collective for a few hours during the intensive. He talked about integration of life in where we live, work and play. Across the world, neighbors are coming together and creating inclusive community. What a dream, right? Part of the reason we’ve lived in our townhouse for 14 years is because of the connection we feel with our neighbors. And that hasn’t been part of a larger, intentional movement. We just all love each other and are in each other’s lives. But what if whatever is brewing within me (and several colleagues) involves this kind of life? The kind of life where you have intimacy outside of your family? The kind of life that has a bigger, collective purpose? A place where everyone has a contribution to make and nothing about anyone disqualifies them from belonging?
I think part of the reason we have an opioid epidemic and hate crimes and suicide rates that are climbing is because people fall through the cracks in a buffered world. Not everyone can rely on their family to catch them. Some people are falling because of their family. People are overworked. Spouses can’t provide all the emotional and social support their partner needs (because that’s not what partnership is but we think it is). Social media can be a double-edged sword. Politics leave no room for error or nuance. We just want to watch something and sleep. We don’t get enough time outside. We don’t get the pleasure of healthy, affordable, easily prepared food. We’re overscheduled. Our kids aren’t safe to play outside unsupervised. It’s always raining (at least here!) Everyone wants more from us than we feel we can give at work and at home.
What would it be like to feel comfortable asking for help, knowing it’s there waiting for you? What would it be like to operate out of a place of wealth? Wealth of relationship, resources, energy - because it’s not an individual well you’re drawing from but a collective one. What can people accomplish when they live and work together? A lot. And that work starts within. It starts with moving along the spectrum from buffered to porous self.
***Okay this is weird. I was going through the post before publishing it to add links and I found this. Remember when I got trained to do Peace Circles because humans need connection? That was 18 months ago. Perhaps the hints have been coming longer than I thought!