It’s Diverting, It’s New, It’s Community

Diversion

Modern popular culture is not just the latest in a series of diversions.  It is rather a culture of diversion.

I had an astonishing glimpse of a quieted (un-diverted) heart this week.  An older gentleman brought some tax information to my house.  He usually brings his wife with him, but this time he was alone.  It was going to take  30-45 minutes to complete the year-end work.  I offered him some magazines which he declined.  He sat at my table, content, doing nothing for that length of time.  He. just. sat. there.  He was happy.  It was amazing. 

The realization of how I would chafe at not having a book with me was a revelation of my own restlessness.  

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Novelty

The quest for novelty is not simply a search for new distractions; it involves the notion that a new thing will be better than the old one.

The love of novelty is manifest at the singing of the National Anthem at ballgames.  Artists are forever trying to give the music a tweak, either in rhythm, note-bending, chord structure or style.  We see the same thing with Christmas carols. Sometimes a new approach is fresh and refreshing; many times it is wearisome and freakish.

Curt and I will never forget a faculty music recital we attended.  The saxophone player, gifted with skill and brilliance, wooed us during the first half with ballads, smooth riffs, gorgeous tones, melting tunes.  The second half he introduced his experimental music which bordered on the obscene.  Unnatural hand positions, blowing through the instrument without making any sound alternated with playing the instrument without breathing into it–nihilistic nonsense.  It was novelty on steroids.                                                                                                                                        

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Community, or “the membership”

As industrialized populations became more and more mobile, the ties to family and community became weaker and weaker.  The sense that every individual person had a place of belonging within a family or the society of a community was soon lost.

Is the hunger for community hard-wired into our genetic makeup?  Immediately after this sentence, Myers says that many people voluntarily give up community and want to lose themselves in a crowd.  I have single friends who live in community in our rural part of the world; they are often advised to move to the city, where the possibility of meeting a potential life partner is greater.  Is that good or bad advice?

Is it harder or easier to establish community in a urban or rural setting? Does that matter? 

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5 thoughts on “It’s Diverting, It’s New, It’s Community

  1. I’m not sure that it matters whether one is in a rural or urban setting.  I would have thought that rural was better for actually establishing community in the past, but have been forced to change my view.  Perhaps the difference is the church.  When in Portland I had more community than I had ever had, but here, in a town a fraction of the size, I have struggled to find community for a year and half without success.

  2. Obviously, Carol, I have too much time on my hands today!Here are my thoughts on establishing community:  Setting has nothing to do with it; it’s all about people.  My husband was in the Marine Corps for 27 years.  As a military family, we were part of a tightly-knit community no matter where we were.  Apart from the military community I’ve lived in both urban and rural settings and enjoyed or lacked community (membership!) in both.  I grew up in a rural area in Alabama where those whose families had been on the land for several generations were part of the “membership.”  Those who had moved into the community, no matter how long ago, were outsiders – no matter how involved they were in community life and activities, it was clear that the membership was closed.  That community is still (40 years later) like that.  As an adult, I lived in a rural community in upstate New York that was the same way.  Despite my attempts to get to know my neighbors, all but 2 families kept to themselves.  They didn’t associate with us, but they didn’t associate with each other, either.  About a year later we moved 40 miles away to another rural community.  There we had a lot of Amish neighbors who were friendly and included us in their activities and befriended us.In the urban areas we lived, I can tell you similar stories.  In our neighborhood in Santa Ana, California there was no community.  In our neighborhood in Jacksonville, North Carolina we knew all our neighbors up and down the street, and spent time with them both in our homes and in other activities.Now we’re in a tiny town of about 2000 where most of the citizens both black and white have lived here all their lives, as did their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Yet we’ve been included in the “membership” here.  I believe that one can find community – or at least attempt to establish it – no matter where one is.  A lot of it has to do with how friendly one is willing to be, and finding contentment in something other than circumstances.

  3. My own experience tells me that the easiest way to have community (admittedly not always practical) is to live in the same place for many generations. I live in a place that is now a city that will probably within my lifetime be a big city. When I was young, it was considered a larger town, but most didn’t refer to it as a city. But we have community here, and that is because our family has a history. In fact, it still has that small town feel because a lot of the growth has been organic, at least in our part of town–more about folks having families that grow up and have families of their own than about outsiders coming in. And I imagine that it is hard for newbies to feel at home here, at least for a few years. It seems that time is required to really build a community. Sometimes the time put in by someone else (ancestors) makes all the difference.

  4. I lived in cities the first 27 years of my life and have lived in a small town and now rural area outside that small town for the past 21.  I definitely think it’s easier to have community in a small town, but it takes YEARS to feel part of that community.  It is possible to have community in a city but I think it has to be more intentional like through a church or possibly a neighborhood.  My parents have a community with their church and in their neighborhood in the suburbs of St. Louis.One story about singles being advised to move to a bigger city to find a mate.  A pastor moved to our last church from Houston.  He was almost 40 and single.  Within six months in our town of 20,000 he had met his future wife.  They married and now have two children.  He never tires of the irony of having to move to a small town to meet his wife.Great topic.

  5. On diversion: I’m with you on this one. My sister and I have this continuing conversation about being a single and going out to dinner by ourselves with or without a book. I say NEVER w/o a book; and rarely by myself, anyway. It takes a certain self-esteem and contentedness w/ oneself to be able to do this, I think. Maybe I’ll get there someday.On novelty: I will never forget my daughter’s 2000 high school graduation where a kid got up on the stage w/ his electric guitar and did a Michael J. Fox-in-“Back to the Future”- type rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on it and watching my dad’s face from our fourth-row-from-the-front seats. Not a good thing .On community: I’ve had it both ways and it’s interesting to watch how people are/react. In my apt. complex there are a LOT of senior citizens who always talk to me and want to know how I’m doing in school. Then there are also a bunch of Filipinos who pretty much keep to themselves and never even smile at me or say hello when I go by. Moving to the big city to meet a possible mate? Not gonna happen! I’m there and there’s none. If God wants it to happen, it will, wherever I live.

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