Big Happy Family
Joe Clark ~~ Aug 9, 2004

Today, by chance it seems, turned out to be a day of thinking and interacting with people. For lack of a better way of doing it, I'll go sequentially.

This morning was church, which went without much of a hitch. I might get myself into the church choir, which would probably be a good thing. I'm always talking about singing; I might as well join the organized group of singers (and maybe learn to sing parts or something crazy like that). In Sunday School we talked with S&L about the state of ministry in Russia and their plans for the future. Quite interesting, and I think they do a good job of sharing their excitement.

After church, about 7 folks from church, mostly PIGS, went to eat at IHOP. I brought my dad and grandma along too. I was a little tense about that, seeing as there is not one but two generation gaps there. Well, we got into a good discussion with the six people at our end of the table, talking about everything from faith to relationships. My familyites didn't say too much in the conversation, but they were following along and seemingly not bored. However, later I learned that my grandma at least didn't think it was the best arrangement and would prefer eating in a smaller setting (without all the young church folks probably).

So herein is an issue. First of all, she is not stating anything I can directly refute. Everyone has their peer group, and for deep fellowship, or maybe even lunch fellowship, keeping within a peer group is helpful. But it frustrates me (the truth of it, not my Grandma's acting on it, so as to try and keep this conversation in a generic sense like I like to do). So, my problem is that I know that I have some distinct groups of people -- family members, church members, high school friends, Iowa State friends, and now Watershed friends. I am all about the small world principle I guess, and I wouldn't have a problem mixing and matching between those groups, and being pleased at bringing people together and allowing people to meet one another.

The problem is that this nice idea doesn't work very well. First, there is the purely logistic issue of group size. Sometimes the conversation is hard to keep fair even among three people (or two for that matter) let alone a large group in a crowded restaurant. This is a problem for every large group I think, and I have a feeling this is why cliques form. I mean, if 80 people could really talk to one another, there may not be cliques, but I can't talk to more than 4 or 5 people meaningfully at once. Even if I talked to each of 80 people meaningfully for 10 minutes per person, I'd never remember all the information from 80 different people after 80*10 minutes.

So, in my conversations, I try to observe the subtle patterns that occur. I noticed today that there were six of us, and four of us, and the two groups didn't intermingle very much. Sure I wanted to talk more to the other four, but I was wrapped up in conversation with the six. Logistics. Junk. Maybe this is a need that will only be met in heaven.

I've also noticed fairly frequently that it's really easy to have a monopolistic conversation, either by being the transmitter or receiver of monopolism. What I mean is, say you're at a mingling event, and you'd like to, well, mingle. But there's one person that talks about a topic of interest to you but not to most other people in the room. So you basically are having a private conversation in the midst of the group. This is fine I suppose, but it doesn't lend itself to being social and talking to a buncha people. If this monopolistic person is the one you most want to talk to, well, sweet bliss. If not, though, it's frustrating. Ahhh, playing games with who's more important. Favorites. Junk.

Anyway, after the lunchtime fun times, I came home and addressed CD envelopes. They're going out in the mail tomorrow I believe...go me for getting something accomplished. It seems that I have lots of projects that are on my todo list but don't ever seem to get done. And some of them (like software projects, which come along once in a while), are never really done, because there's always some way to perfect things more. Indeterminate endings. Junk.

Tonight I went to GBC for a special event. Some folks talked about going to church camp; then we ate food in the basement. It is always good to talk to the people there, both to remember times past (9 years ago now...time flies), and to catch up with how they're doing these days.

After that I went to a Watershed pool party. I chose not to be a poolite but rather a chairite on the side. It turns out that there were several other chairites as well, so I didn't get lonely. I spent some time getting to know someone that goes to Watershed that has been visiting/attending Hillside lately. (The small world principle...it's all over the place in this ol' town.) I talked to most of the usual suspects as well, and had a fun time overall. But here is another example of a large group activity. There were probably 50-60 people at the pool, and I talked to a fair number of them, but not too many in great detail. But I did have a few conversations that I think are obviously meaningful, so I won't complain about that tonight.

On the way home from Bowman Woods pool I played a Michael Card tape. Cool Cool Cool. For the last week or so I've been trying to start reading a book by Thomas Merton on "new seeds of contemplation", and that seems to be a theme that's working itself out in my head these days. Church, people, maybe work, music...all are slowly leading me towards a more contemplative life. I don't even know what that means, and it's not like this hasn't been going on for years, but at least at this point I have a sense of excitement about stuff in general, hence my phrase, "Life is still beautiful." Hence my saying "AMEN" for no reason when watching a hot air balloon. Hence my high-attention-and-enjoyment factor while listening to Michael Card on the way home. I suppose to be completely spiritual, I might say, "God is doing a work in me." It sounds kind of inaccurate, because I think God's been doing this work in me for a long time, but I just seem to be extra aware of it in the last weeks or couple months, and it's a good feeling. Anyway, God's joy be upon us all. :-)

So some wrapup thoughts that turn down an old path: Part of our discussion today at lunch was about relationships: LDR, online dating, who should make the first move, the physical aspect -- quite a few topics actually. Predictably maybe, I think the one I most remember is the topic of who should make the first move. Here's my bitterness: I never wanna make the first move. I may play around, but I don't usually come right out and say it. I would follow down a path of "mutual moves" if that makes any sense, but I would hesitate to start something from scratch. Now, this is problematic because I think other people rarely make the first move either, so I just end up getting over people. Now, in slight contradiction, after I overanalyze everything for about 50 years too long, on rare occasions I will make a move, but only after I've blown everything out of proportion and thoroughly messed up my own mind to the point that "it" probably wouldn't work out at all anyway. When I do make a move, the answer is always no anyway (has been in the past, and why should I expect the future to be any different short of God Himself intervening in an unprecedented way in the affairs of the heart?), so in this case too I end up getting over people. That's what I said at lunch today, and this paragraph explains why. Call me bitter, because I am. But, as is so great about the human spirit (so far for me at least) I get over it, and I snap back to my safe contemplativeness. As long as I focus on people in general and not on individual people (you know what I mean), life has been shown to be quite nice. The trick is to make the snap-time as fast as possible, to reduce the time in agonizing stupidity.

And, to top it off, relationships mess up my life. Or, more correctly, liking people messes up my life. I don't know what a relationship would do -- I'd have to have one to know what it would do. Liking people always makes me think in very juvenile ways I think, and play mental games more akin to middle school than enlightenend adult life. Maybe I overstate the case, maybe it's just normal, maybe it makes me dysfunctional, but it seems to be the truth anyway.

So, in light of all I've said today, I hope my life will be about pursuing God, not in the cliche way of...whatever my mind automatically turns to by 25 years of typical words, but about pursuing him with all my heart in my own (Biblical of course) way. It's one of those "contemplative" kinds of ideas that maybe can't be explained, but maybe you can sympathize in your own contemplative way. And, I guess I wish that if I feel like liking someone, I will do my best to put that recipe for stupidness under the control of the ever-widening span of God's love and fulfillment of dreams in my life. Basically, what I wanna do is live a life of figuring out what it means to love God and love people in the God way, and if some of that love people romantically stuff comes along, so be it, and thanks be to God. Whether I can keep that focus, or whether that sort of focus is *really* what God even wants, though -- that I haven't a clue about.

In any case, it's getting late, and ready or not the hour of working approacheth. I will continue to ponder my old issues and maybe come up with some new thoughts on them, and if I find the answer to the universe, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I'll try to find more hot air balloon random moments to say, "AMEN" about. Good night, and "think tight" as the contemplative teenagers might say. :-)

PS: If you read this, will you send me an email? I would like to know if anyone reads this stuff. I've said it before, but I think what I have to say is interesting, but I never really have a chance to talk about it in depth with anyone but myself (yes it's an exaggeration, sorry), and as much as I say, "it's on my web page", I think I'm the only one who's excited about reading my writing. To be expected, I suppose, but sad too. I guess some of this stuff is sorta too deep to talk about in typical conversation, so I take the reverse approach and talk about cheesy stuff and all. That works, but always remember -- I have a much more interesting deeper side too, for those who are willing to dig down to find it and show that they wanna hear it.