Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself. — Sir. T. Browne
Sam Snow informs me that I am very bad at saving face. I informed HIM that his incessant criticisms are ineffective so long as I perceive them to be compliments.
SNOW. You were in a very real social situation last evening.
ME. I realize this. It was rather enjoyable… for a time. The whole thing of it is that crowds truly annoy me after awhile. It is also true that any individual within the crowd is a pleasure to spend time with, but crowds inevitably dilute conversations. The crowd sucks the soul out of the individual. This whole notion about being a part of a crowd, I may venture to be quite modern altogether, though, I have very little evidence to back this up. ‘Tis better just to say it and make an argument the best you can. The whole thing about crowds it that they make you feel a part of something bigger, but the organism of which you are now apart of is a very uniformed, “false face” type of beast.
SNOW. You sound like a curmudgeon.
ME. Indeed, I am. I had an enjoyable time last evening sipping tea and reading a book. The only thing that would have made that situation better would be a pipe and wife. But I cannot imagine having a whole crowd enter my tiny, crumbling apartment and making any situation better. Even if the crowd consisted of my closest and dearest friends. This leads to me an interesting conjecture as to why crowds rub me the wrong way, for many of my friends are scattered abroad in various towns and cities.
SNOW. Would it not be enjoyable to network all of your friends together in one streamlined fashion?
ME. This is a very stupid suggestion. As I just said, my friends are scattered abroad. Friendship cannot happen but on the physical level with handshakes, hugs, facial expressions, and, most importantly, sneezes. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they sneeze. When my father sneezes, it sounds as if he is having a heart attack and a tiny earthquake is taking place. I have a friend who stops halfway when she sneezes, and I’ve yet to hear a full sneeze from her. When I moved from Oklahoma to Iowa, all my new Iowa friends picked on me because I was so presumptuous to sneeze in threes. And now I’m subconscious about sneezing in threes. Furthermore, a lot can be found out about a person by way of responding to a sneeze. Is there no recognition or silent reverence for the sneeze? A “Bless You”? A “GOD bless you”? A “Gesundheit”? But no one sneezes with their new Face. Now back to crowds.
I believe this whole notion of having tens of hundreds of friends is probably quite modern. It suggests a certain level of insecurity — a fear of being alone. This is a very real haunting fear the modern face. As I posited, being a part of a crowd suggests you are part of something outside of yourself — something quite bigger. When the modern is alone, he will inevitably consider the big questions without anyone to take his mind off of this looming darkness. You see, the big questions as answered by the modern are very depressing. This is why everyone insists on making the little things so much more meaningful. So pouring yourself a bowl of cereal becomes quite a magnificent task. I do believe there is something to be said for making mountains out of molehills. Life is certainly more enjoyable this way. But the problem for moderns is that all these mountains have to have some sort of meaning, and meaning suggests there is something else out there bigger than ourselves. You cannot have meaning with pure naturalism. It contradicts itself. Grocery shopping becomes a venture in a heavily wooded forest, but that only has significance if finding oneself in a heavily wooded forest has meaning. And for the naturalist, this really has very little meaning other than walking through a heavily wooded forest. The symbolism of evil that darkness carries with it is really quite meaningless, and getting out of the woods is nothing more than a change of scenery.
SNOW. Pray. What has this to do with anything.
ME. It correlates to what I was referring to with the crowd. My generation is afraid of being alone. I argue that being alone is the perfect opportunity to muse on the meaning of it all. This is very hard to do in a crowd.
SNOW. I feel our readers would be better served if you got to your point.
ME. The constant interruptions keep me from doing so. As I was saying, being in a crowd dilutes the individual souls within the crowd. It is like creating a larger swimming pool with only a shallow end. Sure, you have a much larger swimming pool in terms of space it covers, but you can do less with it. But if you have a swimming pool that is just the right size yet with a deep end, you can have a little bit of both worlds. Certainly, you will always have those moments in the shallow end, but you can also utilize the deep end for more exciting things like swan dives, flips, and cannonballs. You can properly dive for pearls in the deep end. Now, the agenda of my generation is to do away with the deep end altogether. We would have more “friendships” in the shallow end.
What results here is a lack of real community. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. This friend does not allow his companion to fall into sin. This friend warns his fellow pilgrim when the forest is approaching. This friend properly prepares his fellow man with the armor he will need to make it through life. This friend longs for his friend’s joy, which he knows can only be accomplished through holiness. (“Be holy for I am holy.”) This friend is willing to fight for the relationship, even if that fight means being confrontational with his friend he’s trying to save. He is willing to disagree with his friend on the basis that there is a fundamental agreement between the two on the core issues of life. Well, these two individuals might disagree on the nature of the predestined soul, but they both love our Lord who willingly died for them. And as their Lord died for them, they can properly come to their friendship with the perspective of laying down their life for the friend both daily and metaphorically as well as literally if it comes to it. This friend would rather he be damned himself than to see his friend be damned. This is only possible because they agree on something fundamental even while disagreeing on other matters.
SNOW. Sounds like our relationship.
ME. A very real meta moment no doubt.
SNOW. I’m following. But Your word limit is about to run out. Get on with it.
ME. The crowd will always be there. The true friend who sticks closer to a brother, who is willing to arm himself with sword and shield, who will mount his horse, let down his beaver, and raise his lance for his friend’s holiness does not come around too often. These should be cherished. Now, it is my argument that moderns lack this because they deny sin, and there is nothing to fight about and we can all pretend to be happy when we are not. This is why everyone puts on a Face. We lack community, but we seek it in the wrong way. We deny the spiritual battle surrounding us and create communities of self-esteem, in which we put on a Face and tell everyone else their Face is fine.
SNOW. I sense we’re getting close to your point.
ME. Right. I am rounding that corner and putting my hand to the plow. I will not look back. I will let the dead bury their own dead. I will —
SNOW. On with it!
ME. So a few days ago, I wrote a post asking my friends with Face’s to like my post if this blog’s Face was still relevant. I discovered, to no surprise, it was not. I give my Faceful friends one last chance to let me know if they appreciate seeing my Face. And if they don’t, I will remove it tomorrow.
SNOW. This is good news.
ME. It is. I have been without a Face for nigh on a year and a half now, and it is so freeing. I would that we would all rise up and get rid of our smart phones and iPads and start writing letters by hand again. There is something about seeing a friend’s penmanship, pouring out his soul by way of ink. There is something about not having a backspace button. About having to actually think intently about what you are going to say before you put it on paper. There is something about communion and fellowship.
SNOW. What this most significant blog is all about.
ME. So true, Sam, so true. Indeed, I don’t believe I have ever explained our new subtitle: “a communion between comedies.” It certainly is a theological stretch, but in a comedy the characters get hitched and live happily ever after. I cannot help but notice that before the fall, God was writing a sort of comedy. Man was alone, and it was not good, and so God married him off to a woman. We now find ourselves in a tragi-comedy and commune with each other before we again get hitched: when Christ comes back to redeem his bride, the church. So all this talk about the unfortunate nature of crowds and the necessary benefits of solitude should end in a disclaimer. It is not good for man to be alone. And he is never alone so long as he has Christ, for this is all he needs for his supreme joy.