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Saturday, November 26, 2005

California: Anomie, Anchors and Attachments

Saturday, November 26, 2005

On Saturday, October 9, 2004, I posted this observation from the late theologian Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) on one of my currently inactive (inert?) blogs, sun country living:

California!!!!!

This is from The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen:
[California] is a land to which people go to be free from tradition, constraints, and an oppressive history. But the price for this freedom is high: individualism, competition, rootlessness, and frequently loneliness and a sense of being lost. -page 198
Freedom from tradition and constraints, but at a price... rootlessness:again I'll cite myself—I've posted this or something comparable several places, so I won't link to it:
Feeling rootless is part of the nature and reality of living the gospel; exactly like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's departure from that old life and entrance into the new, each day recalling and reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery font of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer, who represents God, the One Who really baptizes.

The early church baptized in the flowing water of a river: just as every life moment is different, you can't step into the same river more than once! Living baptized means balanced on the threshold between our old lives of slavery to sin and self and our new lives of Eastered freedom for others, and living baptized means some times we also fleetingly experience the fullness of gospeled community. Many times I've pointed out for Israel the River Jordan had been the barrier separating them from the Promised Land and then became the boundary and border of their Promise Landed lives. Likewise, for us, baptism keeps defining us as different from those outside the community of the church at the same time baptism is an event that counts us into the covenanted people of God of all generations. Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthian Church "...together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours! Wherever we go we can find an assembly of Christians who call Jesus Lord, so we always can continue journeying together.
As I assess my history once more, I realize what little support it takes for me to feel alive again; I spent Thanksgiving afternoon and dinner with friends and felt whole while I was there at their house and I still felt very whole and very healed afterwards! However, by Friday, the day after, the doubts, lonesomeness and devastation were back ultra-big-time. Nouwen mentions loneliness and lostness, which still is exactly where I remain. My desire to find something, anything, to wipe out most of the memories is back, too. But now returning to this blog's title: California: Anomie, Anchors and Attachments.

I've said just a tad about California, Land o'Gold, so on to anomie. You probably remember studying Sociology with its trilogy of morose-looking practitioners: Émile Durkheim; Max Weber, and Karl Marx? Besides what I learned about him in sociology, not surprisingly my economics curriculum included a semester-long course on Marx! But regarding anomie and anomic, currently I'm living Clairemont, the section of San Diego that at one time (maybe through the 1950's? Not really quite sure on that one) was a leading New Town, and the near-anonymity this part of the city bestows on its residents is one of Clairemont's interesting aspects. As an example, some of the 9/11 terrorists lived in an apartment building not far from here and carried on their planning under their immediate neighbors' non-watchful eyes—now that's very "Clairemont." When I lived and served in Dorchester, Massachusetts, I was riding the subway from downtown after a layout and paste-up session for the local radical rag, when a stranger looked intently at me and commented on the Dorchester 3-decker houses t-shirt I was wearing: "I wouldn't advertise it!" Just maybe Living in Clairemont isn't much more something to broadcast than Living in Dorchester was!

Too often I think of but rarely speak about my sense of desolation in unaccountably losing the work and the relationships that literally defined me and absolutely helped anchor my life. The usual theological jargon insists Jesus Christ, our solid rock that never sinks, anchors us, whatever the storm. But better theology – particularly New Testament theology – insists the Church is the body of the Risen Christ and the local assembly of saints is a huge part of the evidence Jesus lives! My way-too-infrequent experiences of belonging have been too fragile and far too fleeting for comfort. Okay, so it's not about comfort, but how can a person function at all without a minimal level of being comfortably at home? In other words, no longer lost!

The God of Christianity—God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the Hebrew prophets, God and Father of Jesus Christ, reveals Himself as a God of passionate attachments—to creation, and particularly to the people of His creation. God creates us in the Image of the Divine, and calls us to live up to that amazing image, living as people who jump into life with all four feet!

That's this evening's blog: A Most Blessed Advent to Everyone!

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