Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sharing Casseroles and Community

I want to fall in love with the world, I want the world to fall in love
I want to fall in love with the world, I want the world to fall in love.
John Martyn

There is a shortage of casserole giving in the world today and I don’t like it. When I was a kid (how about that for old person speak? “When I was a wee whipper snapper everything was a helluva lot better” she whistled through her dentures), anyway, when I was a kid the world was still the center of Galileo’s universe and God was just a young little thing, people lived in community and shared their stories, babysat each others’ kids, and made casseroles. I don’t really give two hoots about a casserole mind you, but what happened to the whole “love thy neighbor and when a new one moves in down the street bring them a casserole to introduce yourself and be welcoming” idea?

We don’t even seem to have “community” within our dwindling nuclear families. Families don’t share dinner together and if they do the t.v. is on. Why? Why don’t we even want to communicate with the people that we love and torture the most? If you’re not spending your evenings pestering your siblings at the dinner table then you’re missing out on a world of fun. No wonder we’re all losing our ability to communicate with each other and all our relationships are breaking down. My family has a very special ability to drive me batty but holy cow, since when does that matter? Parents rule the roost and if you’re a parent turning your nose up at me right now and saying “that’s not true”, bullshit. It IS true. YOU are the parent and YOU determine mealtime and YOU determine who is in attendance and YOU determine the nutritional value that food will or will not contain and YOU determine whether the t.v. is on or off. You are not your childrens friend, you are their parent. Easily enough said by someone who is not a parent, I know, but seriously
people . . . from parenting to dealing with people at work to maintaining friendships and dating relationships and marriages we all need to turn the damn t.v. off and communicate with each other and get comfortable talking with
people . . . face to face . . . in person . . . right there in front of you. I'm totally pontificating, I know, but I’m firm in my convictions and if you have better ideas I’m happy to hear them. Being firm in my convictions does not always equate to being right.

In the past week I believe I have counted four people who have said to me “I don’t like conflict”. I’m not sure there are a large number of people who relish conflict but it happens, and the more we avoid it the worse the situation is going to get. We’re not learning to communicate with people and we’re avoiding saying things that need to be said, especially when those things can feel a little uncomfortable, the problem festers into a huge boil and rather than lancing it we just walk away and say “Forget it, I’m scared, I’ll just go somewhere else.” What the hell good is that? You’re just going to keep facing problems and losing people. We just leave. We leave our friends, our families, our spouses, our jobs, our schools and in some extreme cases we just shoot each other. Eventually you could run out of places to run and hide and people to talk to . . . or not talk to.

Apparently that really is happening because according to a study on “Blue Zones” people in our society no longer have the same amount of what can be called close friends as we once did, and our health is suffering from it. If you don’t know, blue zones are areas of the world where people live past 100 years of age quite regularly and ya know what? They live in community with each other. You know what else? They have at least six people they call close friends. In our society today that has dwindled to one for many people, and none for some. And another thing, in blue zones they don’t send their elders out to pasture. In these cultures elders are revered, their wisdom is valued. The oldest tea bushes yield the most tea leaves. We can learn so much from our older generations and they can add so much to our lives. Why do we choose to ignore this? Do we not want to face our own mortality? Are we too busy rushing around heaven only knows where and we can’t stop and give time to those who brought us into this world in the first place? We can gain so much by slowing down and giving our time, our thoughts, and our open ears and hearts (and closed mouths) to those who have so much more life than we have. So much can be gained from this portion of our community and continuing to live in community with all ages of our family.

So, I’ve bashed television watching but now I’m going to tell you about a movie I randomly found on the t.v. – go figure. Many years ago I was lying around on the couch looking for a Sunday afternoon movie to watch and I found it. I believe it was called “Sidney”. It starred Tony Randall and for the life of me I cannot find any proof of the existence of this movie no matter where I search but I’m tellin’ ya, I saw it. Not even the mighty “Steel Magnolias” has ever made me cry like this movie that may, or not may not, be entitled “Sidney”. This was over twenty years ago, I’ve only seen it once, and the thought of it can still tear me apart. Nothing is more painful than loneliness EXCEPT, witnessing another person's loneliness. Everyday Sidney brings home his take out Chinese food after work, eats it in the carton (holy crap I’m crying just writing about it), throws it away, and that’s that. No conversations with anyone, no laughing, no smiling, no sharing his day and no uncomfortable interactions with someone he loves, just neat, clean, orderly, emptiness. Sidneys existence has no joy, no red punch stains on a white carpet, no spontaneous dancing in the kitchen while making dinner, no disagreements to be worked through, no love, no dharma until . . . the girl comes along. Somehow, I don’t remember how, a young pregnant girl comes into his life. At first he dislikes her and resents the disruption she brings, but bit by bit the color is brought back into his cheeks and his life. He begins cooking meals and he is so excited about helping the girl and he suddenly has a reason to wake every day, he has joy and love and hope and his life is full, full, full of happiness. His soul is awakened, he begins to flourish, and he is a new man until . . . the girl leaves. As I recall, the man who knocked her up and bailed on her decided to come back, and she goes with him. At the end of the movie we see Sidney as we did in the beginning, lifeless, eating his take out Chinese food alone and throwing out the cartons to end yet another gray day. We need people. WE NEED PEOPLE. We’re meant to be with each other. God had Noah put two of every living creature on the ark and He gave Eve to Adam. And speaking of the great divine . . .

We don’t worship together. You’re all cringing now aren’t you? Oh my GOD she said WORSHIP! Yes, I did. It doesn’t matter to me if you believe in God traditionally or not. I don’t care if you think God is a woman. I don’t care if you are aligned with Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto-ism, or a follower of Native American tribal customs, but believing there is something greater than us helps us all to have a greater sense of love for each other. Go to church, don’t go to church, chant, dance with wolves, join a drum circle, that does not matter in the least, it’s the faith in a higher purpose and power that can help us to feel hope in a hopeless world, to lose our narcissism and to genuinely care about the planet and it’s nutty inhabitants. Find a friend, find several of them. Share your books, your recipes, your stories. Connect with your family no matter how much they make you cringe, they love you very much. Listen to others. LISTEN. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN. Create community in your life. Community eases the pain of economic crisis, heart break, and runny noses. These things will all still happen, but someone else will come over and bring you soup.

Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

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