Monday, August 11, 2008

On Community

(this may be a bit disjointed, as the roof is swarming with workers, ripping, nailing and running the nail gun compressor. I should probably just go sit down and watch a movie, so the cats can sit in my lap, and stop freaking out.)

In the parish newsletter yesterday, there was some boiler-plate article about how our cohesiveness as a community enhances the Eucharist. Makes it 'realer' or something.
Now, ignoring for a moment that this is really close to that heresy whose name I forget about the holiness of the priest affecting the effectivness of any sacrament, the author is way off on community.

Community, as a wise spiritual teacher once said, cannot have itself as its object. It will fall apart if it does. A community is a group organized to achieve a goal. Let me give you an example. In years of volunteer work, I've seen disparate groups of people form many communities. Usually, these are short-lived- their goal is to sort a truckload of canned goods or toys or to fill food boxes. But they are communities nonetheless, at least for an hour or so.

I find that in any community of over five people, there will almost always be at least one natural leader, a troublemaker of some sort (the slacker, the ADHD kid, the klass klown, etc.) and the rest will be solid citizens. Pretty much like society in general. Which is why societies are only as strong as their littler communities.

This is why 'community building' exercises that the business world make employees go to involve reaching a goal. They're bogus, because they're not real goals, but they understand the principle, at least.

But the community college professor I saw on access TV in Arizona didn't. His complaint was that white people didn't have enough friends of color and that was unnatural and should be stamped out. Ignoring the universal evidence that preferring their own group is a human default position, he put the blame for A-A , Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern kids hanging in their own lunchroom enclaves squarely on the Anglo kids.

In his world, you pick your friends by a paint swatch, not by shared interests or likeability. Someone get that man a copy of C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves.

What he misses completely is if you give those kids a goal- win State, put on a play, kick the others choirs's asses in UIL competition, build houses for the homeless- they work together fine.

Community is organic.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Arizona Snapshots

Got back from AZ yesterday, just managing to miss turning into one of those Tortoise Women.

I drove back over three days, in a rental car, which had XM Radio in it. This is something I'd never used before and it shot my plans for three days of Complete Silence to hell. (I love my daughter and her family, but they have a pressing need to have some sort of audio/visual stimulation going on at all times, as background. Even go to sleep to it. It's on even if no one is in the room.) Listened to a little Comedy on the way out of Phoenix, then Show-tuned it all the way to Tucson. There, I decided that the trek across southern AZ and New Mexico called for Folk, with a dash of New Age now and then. I might, just possibly, have to install this in my car.

What can I say about the new baby? Like the princess in the fairy tale, she is as good as she is beautiful. Bob took the camera with him to Colorado, so I have no photos at the moment. She managed, with Y. athleticism and no regard for life or limb, to swim her cord into a knot, so she was lucky to be a scheduled C-section. She was also a breech presentation (like mother, like daughter). She has long eyelashes, and a dimple, like her sister's. She seems to have O's equable temperament, unlike grumpy Mr. Bubs. She looks very much like both her siblings, but she has Aunt Marge's mouth. Getting to watch her unfold over her first ten days was a joy and a privilege.

The first evening we were there, Sissy pulled up some recorded music on the Tivo, so we could see Bubs dance to a piece of 80's techno. He became a tiny Michael Flatley, doing his own minature version of Riverdance. "Look at his musicality," said Sis "His feet are hitting exactly on the beat!" I would have looked, but I was laughing so hard, I could barely catch my breath. His dead-pan seriousness, and the intensity of his dancing was hilarious.

Unintended consequences: I'm sure the developers who order the landscaping in the residential areas were just trying to reassure their buyers: "Hey, it's okay. You can live here- not everything is completely-ass dead!". The problem is that all that extensive, lush sage and olive greenery (sort of) grows just high enough to obscure street signs, store signs and oncoming traffic when you want to make a left turn.

So, I get a call from Sis on my way into Dallas on Wednesday, reporting that she had to spend four hours in the ER Tuesday, because her incision opened up a tiny bit.
"What were you doing?"
"What? What was that?"
"Shopping?!? What were you thinking? There's no shopping in post-partum Caesarian recovery."
I tell ya- leave the premises for a day and people go shopping.

I took Bubs to his pre-school Open House, which he enjoyed quite a bit because it is Building Toy Heaven. A good-natured dad kept accepting the pop-bead ducks Bubs kept bringing him and made them into a long chain for him. Bubs just like to make sure he's thoroughly grasped a concept before he moves on. We've found that if we ignore the purple bruise on the yellow bruise on the green/black eye in public, no one else comments on it. They probably talk about us behind our backs, however.
There was a bunch of C.P. (Competitive Parenting) going on at Open House. Relax, everyone. Two-year olds are not supposed to know their colors yet. Seriously.

Driving out of town, I sidetracked to Taliesin West . I had been on the tour once before and didn't have time to go again, but I went a little wild in the gift shop. Bubbins is getting a big set of architectural blocks for his combined birthday/Christmas present. Ro and I hid them away, removing the temptation to play with them ourselves. Which would be tacky, yes? Unless we presented them as 'green, recycled' blocks...

What is it about great art that makes you want to be a better person?

On the way to AZ, Bob and I briefly visited Ro's new campus in Wichita Falls. The theater building was open, so we gave ourselves a little tour. Wonderful. Maybe third time will be the charm for her...

Marge and her friend Davy came by for a visit on the way back from California. They brought us their perishable groceries and taught me a new Scrabble game. He was such a nice guy and we were all impressed with his patience and amiability when Bubs claimed his as his instant new BF. Bubs even had a little tantrum when he couldn't accompany him to the bathroom. Bubs had been unconcerned when others, including Sissy, had cuddled M.J. But let his pal Davy hold her for a second, and it was 'Make Morwen go nigh-nigh!" He's such a guy's guy. Poor little scrap, surrounded by all these women.

More later...