When we talk about things that matter
it seems as if the world has reached a fever pitch. My one-time home in Baltimore is burning and SCOTUS is taking up marriage for the first time, for the last time and should the state pass an income tax to fix the roads and support the schools and did you realize that some people who don’t identify as women can become pregnant and who has muddled my first mothers day with questions on whether insisting on honoring non-moms is taking something away from those maryland moms losing their kids on an activist holiday and activist judges and #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter and #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag.
For every one of these long-threaded conversations, there are a dozen more people who sit out, not engaging in the vulgarity of politics in public with strangers. There are those, wiser than me for certain, who ignore those of us who shout into echo chambers in the vain hope that a vibration makes it out the other side. there are even, few and far between, those that drop single comments so insightful and balanced that even bull heads like mine quiet down for a moment.
For certain, though, the very nature of social media allows us to become entrenched. complexity reduced beyond a talking point and all the way to a meme. articles shared and reshared without ever being read let alone digested.
Sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, one of those shared thoughts catches the light in your mind in just the right way and makes you reconsider. revolve. repent, even. and in those cases sometimes you want to cry out, to reflect this ray that has finally broken through so that others may hear it. but the only you have to put it is to toss it back inside, where it bounces and gradually fades among the noise.
perhaps the ray of light this time wasn’t a bat signal but just a tiny glow under a bushel. perhaps, this time, before it could change your mind or anyone else’s, it is the kind that needs cultivation to grow and matter.
where do we go to cultivate, to knead our souls and give these disparately collected bits of detritus a chance to mingle, coalesce and finally rise into something new? where can we go to hash out that which can’t be hashtagged? what once were our most intimate conversations, sex, religion, and politics, are now bared and barren, boxes checked on a form. we have taken away the places where we have intimate, real conversations, the safe spaces where we reevaluate our beliefs and solidify new ones, and replaced it with a too-new patina, a suggestion of depth.
have we already talked these things through with our spouses and are sure we know what they’d have to say, and besides after paying the babysitter and working late and doing the dishes and seeing your mother wouldn’t we rather use our precious spare moments to get laid?
do you turn to your best friend who you once stayed up all night with four nights a week, your deep discussions fueled by coffee and cigarettes and philosophy and free time that seems unending. but it does end, your deep discussions with it, and you can’t see how you’ll ever find it again
who, then? perhaps churches once filled this role. not the ritual, not the songs nor chants nor even sermons. but the wednesday night bible studies and quilters bees and people who have known each other for so long that sometimes they accidentally slip up and hint at things that are real. the book clubs or knitting parties or things you do just to have an excuse to sit around and talk and finally, finally, the conversation shifts to what would around anyone else be dangerous territory, but among this group you find not hardened positions, but nuance and learning and empathy. and there you find what you’d given up looking for for a handful of desperately yearned-for minutes, satisfying but ultimtely limited. too soon a new person arrives and a phone rings and we revert again to platitudes, pretending no one in the room had ever been allowed even the briefest peek at our naked souls.
is it difficulty of cultivating these times itself that which makes them so sweet when they finally come briefly into season? does the time spent hunting our favorite haunts only to come up short, add to the flavor the next time we find a new one? until i know i suppose i will continue. shouting into the void until someone is kind enough to offer a safe and softly toned reply.