There are multitudes of delightful things to be enjoyed in the world, from the gastronomic treats of Paris to the serene natural beauty of redwood groves. In themselves, though, they are kind of boring.
I recently read a book about how developing rations for soldiers helped accelerate the food technology which creates new products on store shelves. After writing it, the author noted that much of her squeamishness at packaged foods had vanished, that she was now willing to let producers do prep work for her.
Her family, though, wasn’t as thrilled with this outcome. Apparently, a ham and cheese sandwich or quesadilla that they could easily make for themselves always tasted better when mom made it.
It wasn’t the food that they wanted so much, it was instead the sense of being cared about, the experience of someone taking care of them. They wanted the human touch.
Most of us can satisfy ourselves sexually just fine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still long for human touch. We want to see and be seen, desiring not just satisfaction but intimacy; physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy and creative or spiritual intimacy.
What we as humans want is a sense of connection, of bonding, of family, of community, of sharing. Travelling alone to the delights of the world feels kind of empty to us because we feel kind of empty when partaking in them by ourselves.
The stories we hold dear are not of our encounters with objects or places but instead the human encounters where we shared a spark of connection.
If we aren’t getting that kind of human connection, our world goes off, turns all dry and sour. Nothing the commercial or natural world can offer makes up for the loss of intimacy to our soul.
“What do you want?” a pastor once asked me. He didn’t believe me when I said I wanted what everyone else wanted, thinking we all want different things.
“I want to be seen, understood and valued for my unique contributions,” I told him.
After thinking a bit he replied, “Yes. That’s what everyone wants.”
Without that connection, everybody struggles. It is what I gave my parents every day of the last decade of their lives, a sense of being seen, valued and cared for which helped them have one more good day.
What, ShamanGal asks me, would help me turn the corner, help me find some flavour and zest in life? An encounter with trees, a lovely restaurant meal, a visit to see some art?
Her real question, though, is why, if I have so much that she finds valuable when I spend hours upon hours every week taking care of her on the phone over the last few years, don’t people value what I am sharing? In that question, she is like TBB, who has noted that she would find explaining her life much easier if my crisp understandings about the trans experience were out in the world, were part of the zietgiest.
How can I be so valuable to her and so dismissed by others? Why can’t I find a way to make my voice heard in the world?
She knows the answer, of course. “When I send pieces by you that contain something I find valuable to other people, usually their heads just explode and they go silent. People usually don’t know what to say, unless they just find reasons to dismiss you, like you are unholy or defensive.”
From 2002: 2) The challenge for me is becoming product. How do I package my pedantic, theological, wordy, intense content up into something people will want to integrate into their own thinking?
If I can’t stay fresh, though, resilient and engaged, I have no chance of keeping on going, let alone of doing the hard work it would take to become visible as product. How does one enjoy a hot tub or a fine meal if you are already desiccated, as dry as dust?