last week I watched an interesting documentary on jews in rural wisconsin in which one interviewee said something I've heard many times before but hadn't really tweaked to: to be a jew you need other jews. all the reading I've done this semester, esp in relation to jews, but also about christians and muslims, reinforces that. I think that's a part of being a people of the book, that you can't read the book alone but must have someone to read it with.
then yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend. in the middle I was discussing one of the comments my cpe supervisor had made about me and that I readily admit: that for all my admission for the importance of community--and in unitarian universalism the community is as important as it is for intentional groups like the santarians or the amish or the hare krishna--I find it very hard to be fully in community. I already knew this was true but my epiphany, such as it is, lay in realizing for the 1st time why this is.
I love community. my wife will tell you one of my most overworked words is "communal." I think the good of the community beats the good of the individual in most cases and I'm in awe of people who sacrifice for their neighbors, esp ones they don't know.
but I like being on the outskirts, living out on the edge of a larger group. I identify with the rim, only coming in when I choose to and living outside the group when I choose to. my hero I've always identified most with is the lone ranger who lives somewhere out in the desert with his faithful companion and rides into a situation to right the wrong and then gallops off, unthanked, into the sunset and disappears until the next wrong crops up and he's needed again. (and, at least as portrayed by clayton moore, the masked man I grew up with, never killed anyone intentionally.) sometimes I think ministry is like that, only you're not so hard to get ahold of, more like batman who can be called in with the batsignal. ("if you need me, turn on the sneakersignal.")
I like living with people and I like living near people--I tell myself I miss living in the city--but if I'm honest I'll admit even when I lived in the middle of a city I was usually pretty lowkey and often hard to find. I like to be places where I'm unknown. I'm probably more introverted than I think I am because these days, given the choice between spending time with friends and spending time with my dogs, I'm more likely to hang out with my dogs. I love to spend time with people, but on terms and conditions I set.
this is a pretty privileged existence, I know. I can pretend I don't have to rely on other people (although of course I do like everyone else) and I can choose when to involve myself in the messiness of other people's lives or whether to let them get involved in mine. to provide another metaphor, I'm like the kid playing "duck, duck, goose" (although out here they call it "duck, duck, grey duck") who walks outside the circle and chooses how long he can circle the group and which person to let chase him. I remember in my freshman american lit class learning about the puritan concept of "being in the world but not of it" and I think that informs at least some of this, not that there's a better life for me afterward but that I've got something better going on over here that I'll share but I'd rather not. I don't think that's being a good person of the book and I know it isn't being a model unitarian universalist but there it is for me: "beloved community" is an idea I like very much so long as I can come and go as I please.