Print Story Thoughts in solitude*
Religion & Philosophy
By ana (Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:49:46 PM EST) Dunno anymore (all tags)
Haven't been to church much this year.

Don't know that I'll be going back.

* Borrowing the title from Thomas Merton.

So, yeah. Being a Christian has been a big part of who I am, for a very long time.

The part of Christendom where I find myself seems to have a pretty strong thread that says it's not something you do yourself; we're a community (they say). One of the books we were reading in the book group (about which more in due course) was by Archbishop Rowan Williams, called Tokens of Trust. It's a fairly common apologetic technique, working through the creed a clause at a time. So there's this thing about the Communion of Saints, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (which, at least hereabouts, takes an act of faith to believe in). He remarks that one of the properties of a Christian community is that nobody has to suffer alone.

So I underlined that, and brought it up during the discussion. And then allowed as how I was not connecting... And they looked at me, and talked about how to approach the people who don't want to connect at all (possibly Autistic spectrum folks? Churches like ours attract such people, since everything is exactly in its place during the liturgy.) And they went on to something else. Leaving me sitting at the end of the table, suffering, more alone than ever.

Maybe ending one's marriage is an essentially excommunicating experience. The church is all about helping married people stay married, and doesn't want to hear about, or talk about, people who fail.

Except, of course, the church should be all about helping people who fail. That's why we're here: not a society of saints, but a hospital for sinners.

The Rector is a man of about 65 or so, somewhat older than I am, a widower (he lost his wife to ovarian cancer about the time we were married). A man with a booming voice, and, I suppose, a knack for management. I'm told if you're part of his organization, volunteer for a committee or two, that he's very personable. I'm also told he does know who I am, though I have no personal observation of that. He's very unapproachable.

The Curate is a young man, as they often are, though older than some, since he did other things before he was ordained. I think he was a lawyer for a while. He's very sociable, and interesting to talk to, and remembers people's names. His idea for getting people involved is to organize a system of "small groups" of perhaps a dozen people each, who would meet together for study and conversation and stuff.

So we formed one, based first in the choir, when we started having rehearsals only once a month or so (leaving people with Wednesday nights free). It's grown beyond that. But since we're all academically inclined, we turned it into a book group, and have trouble agreeing on what book to read next. Or much of anything else, for that matter. One guy quite persuasively argues that solitary practice of any kind is Deeply Troubling; he's the same guy who's essentially a Calvinist and doesn't believe in free will; and he seems convinced that Christianity is some kind of philosophical system. We are, to put it mildly, diametrically opposed on nearly every subject. Apparently others in the group find it edifying to listen to us argue, a propos of whatever book we're reading together. I do not find it edifying to argue with him. Another guy let it be known, when I aired previous concerns about the church, the parish, and us as a community, that he was Deeply Shocked. This would be the one who doesn't want to read Novels (sniff!), and who doesn't want to talk about anything Controversial.

So, okay, whatever. I found something else to do with my Wednesdays for the summer. A grad student in the next building started an early music choir. Rehearsals are at the same time, and on the other side of the river, as the book group meetings. But it'll be mostly over next week, and completely over by the middle of September. He calls the group The Summer Seasonals, and that's just it: summer is a time when people have more spare time. He even recruited 4 of the summer interns to sing, and it's been a lot of fun.

There's something to be said for doing stuff just because it's fun.

So. The choir. At one point a sometime clergy person (I guess she still is, though retired for health reasons, and she was always at least half-time chaplain at the nearby hospital), chatting about her sermon after, allowed as how the parish is actually a set of intersecting communities. In particular, the choir seemed to her as one. I said, well, not any more. Now just 1/4 of the get-togethers, and no time to actually get to know each other. Though 3 of the members are good friends, I hardly feel as if I know the others at all. And the director likes it that way. I guess we're easier to manage if we're solitary, not a unit. I have the annual summer e-mail from the director, giving the draft schedule for the upcoming year. I haven't RSVPd yet.

And I'm having trouble imagining being in communion with those folks, who don't even know if I'm there, except for counting noses for musical purposes. Having zero volunteers in the tenor section would leave a hole. Having nobody to open the bookstall (which never sells anything) would show.

Not going back would leave a hole in my own life, too, of course. In principal it's a great place to meet people. In practice, 18 years of singing in the choir there, and I have 3 friends. So I'm not using the opportunity, if there is one there.

And I have no idea what would replace it. I thought maybe this summer I'd shop around, try other communities. I haven't done it yet. And it's Labor Day already.

But, hey, I have a great job that's engaging. That's something. But it doesn't solve the lonely thing... work meetings are working meetings, and they should be. The immediate team are friendly enough, but not what I'd call friends.

There's a course being offered at the local adult edumication center, on writing linked short stories, that meets on 8 Wednesdays this fall. That'll conflict with two rehearsals at least, which according to the usual ("if I make an exception for you, I'll have to make an exception for everybody else") rules, would mean I can't sing before Thanksgiving or so.

Maybe that's a good thing. I can't tell any more.

Oh, and it looks like Mom might be persuaded to move into the assisted living building that's opening up at the retirement center where she (and my older brother, in his own apartment) lives. So I'd be going to help her move in late Oct or early Nov. I think it sounds like a very cool facility, and her long-term care insurance will help pay the bill. Or, maybe not. An e-mail just came in from her, talking through all the options as she sees them. She's never lived alone before, except briefly when Dad was in the hospital and rehab over the past year.

Thanks for being there, and for listening.
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Thoughts in solitude* | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Always here by clock (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 10:08:34 PM EST
Always ready and willing to listen. It's what we do. Even if we (I) don't know what to say.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

in a way I feel the same by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 10:56:18 PM EST
Lonely.  Been at this job and area for almost 8 years and have zero friends.  Therapist suggested  So I went to a meetup on Thursday and was promptly ignored while everyone else broke into their groups and chatted before the presentation started ( Google Glass so it was not a total waste ).  I drove 70 minutes, to be ignored and while I'm sure if I go to the next and the next and the next meetings, I might make a friend, the whole thought of waiting 3 months just to have someone recognize who I am is depressing.

But what other choice do I have?  Everyone says things take time, but what if for some people, after 8 or 18 or 20 years, it just doesn't happen?


It's a problem people in general have by lm (4.00 / 5) #3 Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:26:13 PM EST
One of the reasons so many of a certain sort of people are drawn to sites like HuSi (and k5 before the trolls took over) is that the vast majority of people are uncomfortable about talking about thinks of substance. Issues like like, death, divorce and such make most people feel very uncomfortable and they try very hard to change the subject.

Churches are no exception to this rubric. Folks that can find a congregation that has some exceptional people that can share that sort of discussion are rare.

It's a sad state of affairs precisely because Church ought to be the sort of place where one can go to talk about important things instead of a place where one feels alone in a crowd.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
We are here. by atreides (4.00 / 4) #4 Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 02:58:09 AM EST
We have always been here.

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

We are your people. by clock (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 11:46:57 AM EST
Love us or not, we're yours.  We think of you often.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

...and the sheep of your pasture? by ana (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 12:09:17 PM EST
Thanks. It's nice to know people care.

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
doing stuff just because it's fun. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 09:50:33 AM EST
That's why my Dad, the non-evangelical hard atheist, is in the church choir.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Sometimes... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 10:15:43 AM EST
in my experience, you need to explore new vistas. Communities change and it's easy to find the ground has shifted under you.

(Comment Deleted) by iGrrrl (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:31:25 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by iGrrrl

[ Parent ]
didn't argue by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 11:57:21 AM EST
over big C vs little c in "catholic" ? ;)

Try meetups by Tonatiuh (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 11:20:59 AM EST
I find lots of things to do here;

Life is too short to do things you don't enjoy with people you don't like (I sued to go to a book club in which the arguments were ferocious, but we all enjoyed that, but I got tired of it, and moved on to something less confrontational).

As for making friends, you are more likely to find them in places and situations you are enjoying (and don't be afraid to take the initiative: modern society teaches us to be passive, everybody is waiting for somebody else to do or suggest something to do. Take the lead!).

Thoughts in solitude* | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback