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The Inner Workings of Community (You Might Be Really Good at Monopoly)

November 12, 2008

I’ve been sitting here in Starbucks for nearly two hours, reading, thinking, considering how I was going to write this newsletter. I’ve been arguing with myself about whether or not I’m the right person for the job. There are better writers than me out there. They, however, are more dynamic, and more humorous, and more organic. They deliver the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention, or have big book signings, so I’m sure we probably couldn’t afford to have them write for this newsletter. The reality of it is that I’ve been thinking about what I’d say here for the course of almost a week, and I am still not entirely sure that I have something worth saying.

So I started Wikipedia-ing articles about topics and ideas I’ve considered extensively in the past few weeks. Out of that came these thoughts.

Apparently in 2006 “they” (the ambiguous people who take ambiguous surveys) found that, on average, American’s only had two close friends to confide in. I know, because I counted them with my best friend last night, that I have approximately five people I can confide in…maybe that puts me ahead of the curve, but I doubt it. The writer of this article also expressed that he felt loneliness was particularly prominent in metropolitan areas. In other words, more people feel the most lonely when they are nameless and faceless amidst a crowd of people that are also nameless and faceless. We are an independent society that is inclined to further ourselves, independent of others, no matter what it takes. That makes me ask myself, simply, “Why?” Why are we so driven to do life alone if, in the end, we feel isolated?

This is where things get gritty and human for me. Because I consider myself incredibly motivated, and incredibly self-driven…sometimes…and yet I struggle with loneliness in an awfully incurable way. I would consider it one of the most awful experiences a person can have.

All in all, I think loneliness is something I have always struggled with. I am not entirely sure where it comes from exactly. I have real friends, people I know that love me, and that I love, but sometimes my mind forgets they exist and I feel alone. I get that way, often, when I start comparing myself to the people around me. It happened a minute ago when I got up to use the bathroom. The barista at this particular Starbucks is better looking than me, and has bigger muscles, so I felt little and insecure. In order to compensate for this I looked down. If I walk with my head down, and my hair hanging in my face, I think it gives me an air of mystery. Deep inside I hope that those around will notice my pierced ears, and my American Apparel deep v-neck shirt and think me artsy and unique. Thats the card I know I can play well. I would suggest that every person who reads this probably has a similar card they can play equally well, or better, than my own. Maybe you’re the funniest person in your social group, or the most musically inclined, or the best looking. Maybe you do something unique, like play an upright bass, or maybe you’ve hooked up with more people than any of your friends, or maybe you’re really good at Monopoly. Whether or not you’d ever say so out loud, I’m sure you probably find a measure of self worth in this—and if you don’t, I’m not sure this article is for you. The truth is, though, that we are all griping and scratching for the people around us to deem us acceptable…

And yet, we as a society are living life more alone than we ever have?

From here I can observe a disconnect between our actions and reality. We have centered our whole lives—our money, our cars, our finances, our clothes, our language, our energy around the hope of being called beautiful by the people in near proximity to us—and, even if we gain that acceptance, we feel no less alone than before. Can it be possible that we have more friends, but are no less alone? I think so. In fact, I know so, and that being true leads me to think our methods are broken. It makes me think that we understand, somewhere, we were not meant to do life alone. If we were, why would we be so innately inclined towards trying to be approved of? I, then, can’t help but wonder if community is something we are unable to make for ourselves. Over the past couple months I’ve grown to think that true as well. If I can be in the same room as a group of people I’ve known for a while, drinking beer I like, comfortably listening to music that I enjoy, but the conversation is never of the caliber that translates individuals from an endless pool of peers to that exclusive group I consider my “confidants”, then I am not sure that community is something we make for ourselves.

I think it’s something that happens to us, and I think it’s something we’re meant to have. I think our whole condition is screaming in testament to that.

How it comes about, where it comes from, and when it happens are different questions for a different discussion, but they’re ones I know I’ve asked.

In community I am reminded that this life is bigger than me, I am reminded that loving people and being loved is one of the most valuable combatants to loneliness, I am inclined to think that there is hope for a world that seems to be destroying itself.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. justinmiyamoto permalink
    November 13, 2008 3:15 am

    “In community I am reminded that this life is bigger than me, I am reminded that loving people and being loved is one of the most valuable combatants to loneliness, I am inclined to think that there is hope for a world that seems to be destroying itself.”

    I can honestly say that that is the most profound and honest thing i’ve read in the past year. thank you for writing.

  2. Ron permalink
    November 13, 2008 4:22 am

    I can really relate with feeling the most alone in a crowd. I see loneliness as being a result of a fallen and fractured world.

    Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”. If this is true, then community and companionship is only a temporal (yet still essential) fix for loneliness.

  3. November 13, 2008 11:52 pm

    I appreciate very much your personal honesty!! It is so necessary to breaking beneath the veneer to make some real connection to another human. To be vulnerable. Right on Catlin.

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