We need community! When we lived in Virgina, our family experienced life within an exceptional community. It is what happens in academia. Individuals, like minded or not, but like-passioned, live and work near each other, exchange ideas, develop their thoughts through discussion. It is a wonderful experience. After the birth of our first child, it became clear that I could not continue full time studies. Therefore, we closed up shop after I received my M.S. in Clinical Psychology at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, and we moved home. Home, home. In my little novella about a girl and her king, he takes her home “inside the walls” into a world of simplicity and humility. When I wrote that I was 19, and was in the process of transitioning from missionary work to life at home. It was a spiritual transition, from a daily life focused on nothing but God, his riches, suffering and service, to a daily life focused on family interactions, work and study…real life, as it were. When we lived in Virginia, it was a cultural Mecca. But we were called to leave.
Books like The Little Way of Ruthie Leming helped me along. What is that longing for the big city, the culture, the arts, the shopping if not a search for pleasure? The greater way lies in the narrower way, through family, relationships, and our roots. What will matter more in the end? You cannot build the same relationships in a metropolitan maze as you can in a small town neighborhood where, ahem, everyone knows your name.
Now I find myself still longing. We are exceedingly happy here, more happy than we’ll ever deserve. We are close to family and my family is part of our regular life. We have steady work, thanks be to God. We have found a parish where we feel at home and finally, after three years have managed to invite a priest to our home (the associate pastor of that parish no less, a sign, I think). The book club I proposed in an earlier post is, electronically, taking place with a group of women I know from around the country. We write when we can, and how it all works will smooth itself out, but more to the point for myself, I’ve finished two books because of it. I’m crafting again, and loving it. Writing as well, as you know. Our home is beautiful, our neighbors are wonderful. Why should I long for more? Isn’t it wrong or ungrateful?
I don’t think it is and here is why. My husband and I passionate people. When I did missionary work, my teammates pointed out to me my extensive use of the word “love.” I love waterfalls; I love peppermint ice cream. Now that I have a four-year old imitator in all I do and say, I realize I also “hate” a lot. I hate this seat belt (that gets stuck); I hate these shutters (that break easily and cannot be fixed). I feel strongly. As far as temperaments go I am choleric-melancholic and my husband is melancholic-phlegmatic. We feel deeply.
We discuss. We exchange ideas. But since we are like-minded on the things that matter most (we married each other after all), and in our discussions go deeper on this path together, as a married-couple journey, which is wonderful, we are not challenged enough. It is better to have one’s ideas tested and threatened by those who think differently. Then we must adapt and our ideas truly grow. Ideas in captivity, in a closed safe environment become weak once they face a threat in the real world.
It’s not only good intellectually but an absolutely must spiritually:
Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote in a Christmas homily, those who are rich in knowledge “have to do a great deal of gymnastics to extricate themselves from their neat and tidy concepts, opinions, perspectives, experiences and worldviews” before they can approach in humble faith “the naked earth where the Child lies in the crib.” And then, at the crib, they must offer their “intellectual riches . . . to holy poverty,” accepting “the inner poverty of all human knowledge [in order to find] their way to the divine poverty.” (from George Weigal’s article “Christmas and the humbling of the Wise Men”)
Upon our return from Virginia, my friend and ministry-colleague and I began a lecture series called the John Paul II Lectures for the New Evangelization. The goal was to create a forum for intellectual discussion and creativity, our own Inklings. I had just one child born at the time. Now I have three. My friend moved, returned, married. The future is unclear. I think a more informal setting would be better, perhaps in our homes for discussion, drinking, and camaraderie.
My husband had a similar idea, but in his own field. Cantus cum cervisia, chant and beer. A group of men could gather, chant some old hymns, then drink good beer together and commune. Though he found some men interested, again with the children, the idea never got off the ground.
We are dissatisfied with our home and the incredible gifts God has given us. But we long to grow in wisdom and virtue, so we continue to seek. We shall see what the New Year holds.