Where I am


Today is Tax Deadline day.  Maybe on a day when folks are pre-occupied with responsibilities to the Tax Man I’ll talk about something completely different.

Wherever you go, people are the same, and people are different.  There are regional differences among residents, to be sure.  But there exist aspects of humanity that are the same wherever you go and they manifest themselves in every group of humans. From nation to nation there are some slight cultural differences but the basic humanity remains the same.

I was reminded the other day why I’m a loaner. It has nothing to do with not liking people. I genuinely do like people. One on one they are wonderful. What keeps me from too many interactions, what holds me back, is the chain of events when you get a group of people together. I find it exhausting.

The first three months of the year we have been house-bound.  There have been things to do in this new house, and things to arrange.  Now that our to-do list has dwindled, Peg & I have been getting “oot and aboot” (out and about) to make up for our isolation.  We’ve been interacting with new folks.  We’ve been exploring new places.  It’s all been interesting — but truly — some things are the same no matter where you go.  Recently a conversation about religion served as the reminder of that basic fact of life.

For Christians I’m not going to say anything surprising when I say that one of Jesus’ promises to believers was that “where I am, you may be also.” Jesus did not address questions about what the place would be like where He and believers were together, at least we don’t hear anything on the topic in the New Testament.  We are left to suppose that it was sufficient to the believer to know that wherever they were, He would be there.

This is a significant fact.  Christianity is and always has been about The Master.  It’s been about how Jesus lived, died, and rose again.  It’s been about His mannerisms and His nature. The physical facts of his existence are rather glossed over.  We’re not told much about where he lived or with whom, what he ate, what he wore, how he got about from place to place — there was no Uber, or Gucci, or celebrity blogs.  What mattered in the message from Jesus’ lips was being with Him. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”

It always amazed me that people spend so much time worrying about what Heaven is going to be like.  What ought to matter is not the walls, floors, or ceiling; what should matter is whether they actually want to be with Jesus?  A lot of time is spent “deciding” who else will be there — as if that’s our business to determine.  I never hear anyone ask whether there’s any reason that Jesus would want to be with some other person whom we think doesn’t deserve to be in heaven.  We change things around from being Jesus’ Centered to being Self Centered.

When you get a bunch of people together there are forces that take over the group that have nothing to do with truth or reality. Ego pokes up it’s head, and vanity;  some folks feel the need to control a conversation, others feel the need to be at the center of attention.  What a person in this sort of situation offers up to any given interaction isn’t as much about whether their comment fits the topic, as it is about whether it supports their position in the group.

The result is that too often groups of random people end up talking about nonsense. (We’re not talking about the business meeting when people have an agenda to be accomplished — though there are similarities even in formal settings)  Round and round and round they go.  Over and over and over.  Much of what is said has no basis in fact. Supposition, conjecture, and opinion pile on top of each other and are filtered through a lifetime of experiences and what comes out the other end  is an odd hodgepodge of words jumbled together. In these conversations rather than seeking truth for authority, authority is sought for truth; what the most respected person says is more likely to be accepted for fact than anything supported by evidence.  It makes my head hurt.

I don’t need to be in South Texas, or at an RV park to hear these sorts of conversations;  they are universal. When men are interacting exclusively with men, certain things are going to happen.  When women are interacting exclusively with women, certain things are going to happen.  When the genders are interacting, certain things are going to happen.  The presence in a group of certain personalities will produce predictable results.  Topics will vary, the timing will fluctuate but you can bet your bottom dollar on several general patterns of behavior.

Recently I sat in on a discussion about different Christian religions.  Yeah — I know — there is only one Christianity — but if you’d been there along with me you’d have sworn that each denomination had their own gospel.  I suppose in some ways they do:  Luther had his 95 theses not that many people remember what they were;  Calvin had his hangups about predestination;  The Wesley’s had their methodical approach, etc., etc., etc..  But it was the message of Jesus which fundamentally caused them all to be called Christian churches in spite of their unique approach to the practice of faith.

On this particular day, what amazed and frustrated me was how little people knew about “their own” church. Historic realities were nowhere to be found;  the various divisions and sects and flavors of contemporary Christianity were confused with one another and commingled as if nothing mattered. And of course there were a couple participants in the discussion that spoke longer and louder than anyone else. It made my head hurt.

I said nothing. I wasn’t ‘in’ the group. I had no place adding my 2¢. But then no one in that group was really interested in the topic of conversation; no one really cared about the answers to their own questions. They were posturing; they were busy establishing a sense of order and primacy among them that had nothing to do with the topic being talked about. (It wasn’t really ‘under discussion’ — no one ways paying attention to the content)  Whether it happened in a restaurant, or at an RV rally, or a campground doesn’t matter.  The fact of the matter is that a lot of conversation isn’t about who’s in the group, it’s about who gets the attention.  As for me, I don’t need attention.  I’ve had more attention in my life than I ever cared for.  I’m glad to be off on the side, listening. That is one of the great joys of retirement:  I don’t have to have people paying attention to what I’m doing.

There are a lot of really wonderful people in this world.  Many of them are delightful conversationalists.  I don’t care whether everyone is a deep thinking or not — that has nothing to do with whether I like them or not. I’ll talk to almost anyone if I can get them one-on-one.  But when you jumble a bunch of people together in a a room and leave them to sort themselves out peculiar things happen and those wonderful people start acting like very different people indeed.

During the winter we have been avoiding most of the group meals — there are weekly pot lucks, and a weekly happy hour, there are periodic catered group meals, and opportunities to try different restaurants as a group.  With my doctor’s insistence that I lose some weight I’ve had all the right reasons to avoid most of them and it hasn’t bothered me not being part of “the group.”  Now that the resident population is almost down to where it will be through the summer we are being approached once again about wouldn’t we really want to join the potluck?  or … well, you know… And so I’m sitting here thinking how much do we get involved with the little community here?  With fewer people the “groups” will be smaller and more my size.  But do I really want to put myself through that?

I suppose I can wait until later this month when the doc takes a look at my current weight and my current physical condition and tells me what “our” plan for the next six months will be. 🙂  I’m waiting with baited breathe. 🙂

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