Facets of community this weekend

Principal author:
John L. Clark


I had a lot of fun this weekend, mostly revolving around several discrete events. I desire to both share some of my sense of the weekend as well as comment on how community presents itself at such events.

I spent a surprising amount of time barefoot this weekend. The weekend was eventful, but those events were largely distracting, although still joyful and lovely. I've mentioned before that I rejoice at a good thunderstorm; well, we got two of those today, and the second one is passing by right now, but that's really just icing on the weekend. I didn't get much accomplished by any practical measure; instead, I reveled in a number of distinct aspects of my community. That's a fancy way of saying that I really enjoyed spending time with friends in a variety of ways, from gaming to gardening to a wedding to worship to exploring nature back to gaming to adventure with babies and, yes, finally back to enjoying a good thunderstorm.

Being barefoot didn't start happening until Sunday. The weekend really started rolling on Friday night, with gaming at a friend's apartment. I have a hard time saying no to my friends when they want to play games. On the flip side of that problem, I think the host was a bit disconcerted by how many people ended up accepting transitive invitations, but it ended up working out well. I was overjoyed with surprise to see that two friends from out of town were visiting for the upcoming wedding. They are both fun, vibrant, and expressive, and we ended up laughing much, heartily, and mostly in a healthy spirit of friendship. This does not always happen when we play games, as we can tend to get caught up in the game itself.

A few hours later, I found myself awake again, and at the local library, where they had invited community members to help work on the library's garden. I see gardening as a very important component of living sustainably, and I look at library gardening as a fun way to plug into a local gardening community. I had thought that they would be working on a vegetable garden, but I ended up just weeding the existing garden. I killed a number of plants. Or perhaps that's too strong, because apparently most plants, including our targeted "weeds", are astonishingly capable of regenerating from a small amount of remaining root. I think it would be very interesting to do some research on how much energy is stored in root systems, allowing plants to start again from a small amount of remaining root, and thus helping to understand how much root you really need to remove to properly kill a plant. And I am certainly a novice (quite green, ahem) at all aspects of gardening, so I rarely pulled up much root. So perhaps it's more accurate to say that I assaulted a number of plants. One of the apparently offensive plants, in particular, has a number of admirable evolutionary advantages, including snapping off at the base of the stem with only a small amount of pressure. Another interesting bit of research would be to study the biological process by which it is able to wrap itself around another plant. I found myself sitting among the various plants, gently moving aside green stalks to hunt for the ones we wanted to remove, and it was like going on a miniature safari, with lovely emerald light filtering through the plants' stalks, and an occasional breeze to remind me how simple pleasures can be.

After a quick change, I joined several friends to attend the wedding of other friends. I felt somewhat out of place at this particular wedding, and after getting so little sleep the night before I was like unto the walking dead, but the celebration was still beautiful and, as it happened, hilarious. The groom has a very expressive face, and he had occasion to thoroughly exercise it, as the bride was, shall we say, not punctual. Many emotions crossed his face as the minutes slowly slid by. We, the guests, rapidly became restive, although the mood was still expectant. I didn't think that things like this actually happened in real life! It took 45 minutes, but she finally made it to her wedding ceremony, and the whole wedding party arranged itself on a tapering stairway in the elegant Severance Hall atrium, culminating in the couple to be wedded at the top. The expectant tension remained in both groom and guests, though. The groom acts in local theater productions. While he was repeating the prompted statements of his vows, he was visibly, thickly full of emotion, choked up with both tears and laughter. The presider read him the next of his vows, and he gasped as he tried to get control of his emotions. A ripple of amusement through the guests disrupted his attempt, at which point he turned to the presider as if he were on any stage and deadpanned, "line." The ripple ripped apart into thunderous laughter. They finished the service with the throne room theme from Star Wars, and that got a good reaction from a room full of geeks; it had certainly been a dramatic wedding.

I had planned to meet with a friend for another interview the following morning, so I went to the early Mass so that I could meet up with him after the celebration. A priest named Father D'Agostino celebrated the Mass, and I was moved by his homily. In it, he talked about communities. He talked about how youth are attracted to gangs because they have a basic need to belong, and to be needed themselves. I understood that the Church needs to offer those things to the world. He also talked about addiction as this unhealthy sort of belonging. He claimed that there is a word for addiction in an Asian language that is composed of two characters, one for "I have it" and the other for "it has me". Rather than this, God does and the Church should offer a healthy, loving belonging to its members, that allows them to be themselves, including to turn away if they choose. The community of the Church must not be one of slavery, but of liberation. This resonated with me because I have been reflecting on our addiction to consumption and the resulting slavery to civilization that ensues. I once again reflected on the best way to encourage the Church to recognize these deep wounds. In brainstorming titles, I thought that I might like to write one called "Toward a Catholic revolution", or something like that. I also reflected on how the other community experiences of the weekend fit into these different categories.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't go barefoot at Mass. That would happen later in the afternoon, when I met back up with the two friends who had surprised me with their presence on Friday. We went creek walking at the first of two parks that I would experience newly over the weekend. When I saw my friend plunge into the water and turn up crayfish and snakes, I stripped off my shoes, tied them around my neck, and plunged in after him. These friends just bring out the barefoot child in me, and I am grateful to them for it. We had a lot of fun splashing around, then we went to another part of the park and played frisbee. Later in the evening I met up with some other friends for more games, but I kept my shoes on. The games of choice for the weekend ended up being Dominion and Battlestar Galactica. I acquitted myself well at the first, but not so well at the second, although they were very good games.

That brings us to Monday (today, at least for the moment). A friend had coordinated a Memorial Day picnic at a local park, but shortly after I arrived, it started raining, and luckily we decided to pack it in and relocate to that friend's house, because the rain rapidly progressed to a storm. I thank a couple of my friends for generously offering to put me and my bike in their van; after a moment's hesitation, I realized it would be wise to accept their invitation, for at least two reasons. Although I had looked forward to more playing outside, I was glad for the new opportunity, because once indoors, I spent hours, barefoot, just playing with my various friends' children, which is time I always treasure. Trying to see things from their perspective, I practice my patience by playing with whatever toys are available, just to see how the children will react, and allowing them to respond in basically any way that they wish. For example, I spent a lot of time building random block structures; it always made me smile whenever a little one would swoop in and knock it down. The point, as always, is not the structure, but to try to help them to understand the world through play. Playing with one of the little girls, in particular, really knocked down my emotional block structure. She grasps a certain fragile shyness, but yet still gazes out at the world and its inhabitants with big, beautiful eyes. At one point I was doing my blocks shtick with her and her parents. I reached out to offer a high five, and she just put her tiny palm out and pressed it lightly against mine, holding it there for a long moment. Praise God, for life is beautiful. From there I biked home, and now my feet are bare once again as I write my first draft of this.

This page was last modified on 2010-06-01 09:14:00-04:00.

This page was first published on .

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

See the version of this page with comments enabled to read or add comments.