I was witness to its power this winter in my son’s life, whereupon an acquaintance of his in his weekly youth group lost her father to the tragedy of suicide, the culminating event by which years of mental illness had rendered. I watched all these youth, my son included, rally around her. They kept vigil with her in the days, weeks and months following his death. In the earliest hours, they could be found by her side at her home, reading Dr. Seuss to her. Making origami cranes. Or sometimes just sitting and not doing or saying anything at all. Just being with her.
It was tender, real, heartwrenchingly brave and it bespoke to me of the presence and eternal gift that can only be found in community. I found my way back to my church a short time therafter. It wasn’t that I had lost my way so much as I had become disillusioned, as I do from time to time, with the meaning of community and its noetic effects in my life. I was in the the latter moment of my cosmic push/pull phase with community at the time.
Soulsticity was born as a seedling with community in mind, as well. A community of souls committed to honoring the holy trinity that is the praxis point of creative expression, learning and spirit which I posit in the liminal netherlands on communal pilgrimage and/or retreat. It is a sacred sojourn we travel together. Finding our way by the light of the lanterns and glow of the guideposts of others. There are solitary sections to our pathways, to be sure, but the true journey is an integrated one. We must depend, rely and give ourselves full permission to need one another. In that space beyond getting by with a little help from our friends is the valley of our souls’ eternal abiding. It is the space where faith lives (and I mean faith in a more ecumenical sense here to mean an absence of fear) and it is the freefall abyss in the continuum of space and time where the notion of letting go comes to mean embracing Uncertainty. It’s what I call an F.U. moment and ultimately, is the only act of self-preservation that can come to matter in one’s life I liken this place to a suspension bridge that connects the dots between those disparate places of conscious knowability and the miraculous.
Community has much to teach me about Mystery and this humbles me. I have stood shoulder to shoulder with a couple of dozen people as we lifted a person up with only one finger each. I have awoken from a dead faint to a sea of concerned faces, all mirroring the same genuine altruistic intentions. And I have watched the memesis of the communal flash mob firsthand and have been rendered inspired by the utter beauty of human shadowplay. As ugly as community can be and seem at times (if war and reality TV are any indications), it can also be a place of incredible beauty.
But alas, my most basic impulse is to flee community. This may be more of a nurture versus nature response. I was born an orphan. My formative first couple of years entail stories of government ward living and temporary foster homes. I then spent the remainder of my first decade living rurally, which in retrospect, is the quintessential setting within which a child might fully image his or her own garden of verse.
Thus, fight/flight is a bit like my daily bread. Or is it penance? I can never really be sure. Turn left or right at the stoplight wherein Exit Stageleft is home and right is a one-way solo ticket to the open road on the outskirts of any and all towns and communities. There is something entirely blissful and liberating about imagining not having to belong to a tribe.
And yet, belong is the operative word. We are hardwired as humans to belong. Indeed, this longing for connection is tied to our very Being-ness. John O’Donohue speaks of this tension in his book, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearing to Belong, as a kind of spiritual wrestling between the being of our longing and the longing of our being, two distinct yet decided tethered soul states.
I sometimes check-in with myself, relative to community, about which ground I’m standing on.
Where Am I? Am I Being or am I Longing? To ask myself this is to give rise to the great anthropological dilemma – am I playing Emic or Etic today? If I am playing Emic, I am inside the community, fully Being and participating. When I am playing Etic, I am outside the communal circle, unconsciously Longing to be part of it. Or not.
And I mention this “or not” place because sometimes that longing is fully about escape and the need to be liminal and removed from community, if only for a short time.
Sometimes for me, answering the Call necessarily entails taking both feet, both hands and my whole body out in step-back fashion outside the Hokey Pokey circles and cultural constructs/norms in order to oberve even just a glimpse of our human inanity, see the forest through the trees and once again, find the sacred in the profane.
Fight, flight. Left, right. Blind, sight.
What can I say? I’m ambidextrous which is to say that I will probably forever live betwixt and between the dichotomies. And that’s OK. It gives me greater dexterity with the Hokey Pokey and that’s nothing if not useful because What if the Hokey Pokey IS what It’s All About?