Hanging Out
Joe Clark ~~ Nov 7, 2004

Hiya. It's been awhile. To be honest, I am now dividing up my time between my Wise Thoughts here and my xanga website. So I haven't been as faithful about writing on here. But today I have a topic to discuss....

My topic for the day revolves around "hanging out", which I'm going to define as spending time together with friends with no particular purpose in mind. I'm going to be fairly legalistic about this definition. In this wise thought, watching movies, for example, is not part of my definition of "hanging out", because there is a purpose involved, namely, watching the movie.

So I have mental issues with the idea of pure hanging out. I think it's safe enough to say that I love people and I like doing things with people, but sometimes the pure hanging out doesn't set quite right with me. I don't know why, though, because of all the things in the world to do, spending time with people - especially without some important distracting task to accomplish - should be a cherished opportunity. But recently I've noticed that I get sort of bored with just hanging out. Now, of course it depends on what actually happens while hanging out. If we find interesting topics to talk about, then I thank God for the opportunity to hear others' opinions on the topic. If we think of something to go and do (eat, go to a store, watch TV, etc), then it's fun to just do stuff together and see what their reactions are to the things around them. The problem is really only when there aren't other activities and the conversation has reached a lull. Should I fear The Lull? Does it mean that it's time to go home, that hanging out has been fulfilled and more hanging out will be without benefit? Is it one of those signs that the group is subliminally saying, "Okay, I'm tired of hanging out, let's go home now."

Of course, those are sort of rhetorical questions. I think if all parties are willing to accept The Lull, then that is a sign of true friendship, "I want you to hang out with me even if there's nothing being said." It implies that hanging out goes deeper than what we do or what we say...it's just the fact of being together that has merit. But I'm not sure anyone thinks that deeply about it at the moment. And I'm not sure that if anyone did think about it deeply that that would be their response. They may be thinking, "Maybe if I just act uninterested they'll leave and I can go do something else." But that's a bitter thought, so I'll assume that it's usually not that.

Part of my problem with hanging out is that sometimes it seems like there are much more productive things to do. This is where I need to reiterate that this is in a way a bad thought, because it implies that being social for the sake of being social is a bad thing, which I don't think it is. But sometimes, it seems like hanging out for the sake of hanging out can be overdone. Usually I only see this as a problem in comparison to the other activities that could be done. Is there a form of work-based hanging out that is as meaningful and relational as normal hanging out? What I mean is, can a group of people, say, help out at the Salvation Army serving meals and gain as much camaraderie from that as they would from hanging out doing .. whatever they find to do? I think in my idealism that they should be able to. And, the serving will sort of set the tone of their conversation both while serving and afterward, so a) they will have something to talk about and b) they will have something to talk about that is perhaps focused on God or service to Him.

Okay, well anyway, this is kinda short, but it's a sufficient summary of my recent thoguhts on this topic. I'm kinda weird about it, I know. It's not a criticism of any person or group or any particular type of hanging out. Just a discussion on the intricacies of generic hanging out and a proposition on the benefits of purpose-driven hanging out.

Peace out, y'all. :-)