Hey - you can order my new book The I-Choice: Staying Human in a Digital Age directly from this blog now. Note the new link in the 'Stuff By Me You Can Buy' list on the right sidebar.
Here's a little taste of the goods to whet your appetite and get ya clickin' on that bloggedy bookety techno-challengingedy goodness:
What’s your relationship status? Married? Engaged? In a relationship? Single? Facebook wants to know! You have to choose one. Ah, gee… help me out here—I really don’t know what to choose!
Someone suggested to me, humorously, that the only appropriate choice on the relationship status menu Facebook gives me, belonging as I do to the tightly knit community of Madonna House, with over 200 members both male and female, clerical and lay, would be ‘It’s complicated!’
I don’t feel single, somehow, even though no, I am not married nor as a celibate Roman Catholic priest am I currently or ever going to be ‘seeing’ anyone. I share my bathroom with way too many people to qualify as a ‘bachelor’ in the ordinary understanding of the term. It can get complicated, especially five minutes before we pile into the car to head over to the main house for morning prayer.
Yes indeed, it is complicated, this whole relationship business, and not just in a community like Madonna House, or in the fragmented post-modern world, either. To be in relationship, to be with another person, in any fashion, is a complex dance indeed. Every person you have ever met in your life is a universe unto themselves: thoughts, memories, ideas, experiences, emotions, physicality, and the mysterious spiritual undercurrent that pervades it all—the enigmatic ‘I’ that each person is and bears through all the outward manifestations of personality.
It is complicated, and difficult. Personally, I live in community with 200 ‘universes,’ 200 ways of looking at the same reality, 200 people coming from different worlds and responding in wildly different ways to the common world of Madonna House in which we have all chosen to live together. United in essentials by our Catholic faith and a certain Gospel vision of life given to us by our founder Catherine de Hueck Doherty, we honestly really have little else in common with one another.
We sometimes joke, in a serious kind of way, that God has asked us to try to live together in peace and love to show the rest of the world that if this motley assemblage of random oddballs can do it, so can everyone else (no offence, MH members reading this book! Love ya! Love ya all!).
Ahem. Anyhow. All of this is to establish myself, if I may, as something of an expert in the field of human relationships. ‘Celibates’ are often dismissed as knowing nothing whatsoever about these matters (since of course to abstain from sexual intercourse necessarily means that one has no human contact with anyone, anytime, anywhere, right?). I don’t know how it works in other communities, but in MH, we are IN RELATIONSHIP pretty much all the time, and yes, IT IS COMPLICATED!!! Sorry for shouting.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just make it a bit easier? It would be so awesome if we each walked around with some kind of little hand-held tool: call it, oh I don’t know, a rat or vole or shrew or some other kind of small rodent-like creature. And it could have a button on it that we could (say) point and click at, well, a little ‘x’ or something conveniently located at the top right corner of one another’s heads. You know, just so we could get out of difficult encounters quickly. Joni Mitchell had a song back in the day, “You Turn Me On (Like a Radio)”. Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn ‘complicated’ people off like a TV? Click: goodbye!
It would be so much easier if, instead of being confronted with the person, with all their verbal and non-verbal cues, all their emotional energy and complex thought patterns expressing in manifold subtle ways we could just… oh, I don’t know, write short messages at each other, maybe on some kind of portable electronic device. IMHO, it would be simpler. OMG, would it ever! Maybe you disagree (YMMV), but I think it would be gr8. The thought of conducting all my relationships that way makes me LOL with delight. TTYL! ♥ ya! Woot woot. See—much easier, if rather more annoying. But hey, if I’m annoying you, you can always turn me off like a TV – it’s the little ‘x’ at the top right corner of my head…
And so it goes. We all know that the relationship thing is hard. Not just because people are complicated (although that really is it, in a nutshell) but because these complicated people can… well, they can hurt us pretty bad, right? They can reject us. Misunderstand us. Betray us, intentionally or unintentionally. Lie to us. Say wounding things to us. Let us down when we need them most.
Even in a truly Christian community, which Madonna House is, where people are trying earnestly to love one another and be kind and charitable, hurt happens. And there is always, in human life, a tendency in the face of that to withdraw, to pack yourself, your real self, deep down away somewhere in a safe place, and present a mere surface to others, a glossy sheen, a good front, a friendly but somewhat mechanical exterior. One that cannot be hurt so much, because it’s not really you. One cobbled together from the latest cool Internet catchphrases or memes, one always smiling, always having a gr8 time.
Not so much Facebook as Mask-my-Facebook. My-empty-space. i-Amnotreallyhere. Because as the saying goes, you cannot spell Twitter without the word ‘it’—and these forms of social networking often subtly substitute ‘thou’ with ‘it’ in myriad ways.