Betty Duffy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here I advance my naivete: I don't care if the economy collapses.

Where government is concerned, one day I want to lead a coalition to camp out on the Capitol Building steps and chant, "Hell no! we won't go!" until the lives of the unborn are protected. The next day I want to submerge my head in the bathtub and float in some powerless peace. I feel called to action and inaction at the same time.

The dark cloud that's lurking over all this political hubbub is the threat, or the seductive whisper (depending on how I feel that day) that none of it is going to matter. Soon I may need to re-orient myself very simply towards the survival of my family and my people, and I sort of welcome the thought. I live my life so much in the realm of superfluities, and so little in what is essential. It's sort of the modern conundrum that life has become so easy that my very existence seems superfluous at times, that my sole purpose is to consume what can be consumed.

I don't grow my own food or darn stockings or build what's necessary for survival. What I can't make, I can purchase, and honestly, I make just about nothing (a frozen chicken nugget here and there). Everything I need for survival can be mortgaged or is present in abundance at the Walmart down the street. It's community that is scarce. I am starving for community life.

Is it too hopeful to think that if the economy does collapse, and we all have to scrounge around for our survival, that my family, which is currently spread out across the country, would re-unite on some piece of land and set to work for our food, clothing, and shelter? To me, that sounds like some sort of utopia. But I also thought it might be fun to be one of those wives in the Utah compound that was investigated last year--girlfriends to hang out with all day every day.

After working hard as a matter of life or death, we might have more appreciation for the superfluities of life and know them for what they are. I currently consider them necessities, and feel at times a bit slavish to the isolation of my own private leisures.

At one time, it seemed pointless to be in community if the entire community was staring at a movie screen, but that was nothing compared to the nonsense of people coming together, each to stare at the screen of their own private laptops or blackberries. We are beginning to forget how to relate to one another.

I am hungry for community life, and I can't help but mention Wendell Berry here. If his philosphies of agrarian life feel too extreme to enact voluntarily, maybe, just maybe, the collapse of the economy could be part of God's wild and crazy plan to bring families and communities back into essential relationships.

Essential Reading: The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry


jenx67 said...

I've been thinking this very thing ever since researching Generation X and how their Baby Boomer parents don't want to help care for their grandchildren (Gen X's children). How can we hope for community when families have fallen by the wayside? I'm starving for community, too, for what it's worth. There is no one to chat with while I hang laundry on the line. We've built fences, and besides, I have a dryer. I could go on and on, but I'd be preaching to the choir.

Anonymous said...

I was just telling Sharon last night that I wanted to move to Alaska and switch careers. I want to trap beavers and make fur hats. I dream about mushing a dog sled up to the nearest outpost for antibiotics, juice boxes, and pacifiers.

Betty Duffy said...

My MIL had a book a couple years ago about "refrigerator rights" which made the assertion that Americans need more relationships where they feel comfortable helping themselves to the food in their friend's fridge. I think that's a pretty good idea, if I could just get the friends to my house. I do remember having friends in high school with rr's, but most of my friendships now take place predominately over the phone and email. I want all the people I love to be within walking distance. How could I rig it?

Emily said...

A quandary about community: you can't pick and chose who gets to belong. While place, blood, and common interests may bind people together, there are always a few you don't really want to be bound to. Just so you don't think I'm dogging our family, I'll use the pro-life movement as an example, which, like all movements, has some verifiable kooks amongst it. But belonging to a political movement defines a number of people's identities. So another question might be what community do you choose to identify with (or do you choose more than one: eg. Facebook and Blogger?) and how do you build/sustain it? Wanna start a commune?

I resent that you implied I am too old to be a surrogate!

Emily said...

oh yeah, I also like this quote being passed around:
"So What Have We Learned in 2 Millennia?

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." -- Cicero - 55 BC

Evidently we have learned nothing."

Betty Duffy said...

I do want to form a commune. Having lived in a family, a sorority house, a dorm, and a convent, it seems that those who share a common faith make the happiest communities. I'd even go so far as to say that it would allow people who do not like each other to live together happily. That said, I'm not ready to head down to AVe Maria. Can we have a Catholic literature lovers with a dry sense of humor, good fashion sense, and organic food commune? Actually, that might eliminate my husband. He could live next door in the salami eating, jeans and polo shirt commune.

Rachel said...

Living in commmunity where we share a common faith? Would that include me since I am a Christan though not a Catholic? I hope so because I DO eat out of your fridge and i just might starve ;)

Seriously IS the frustrating but glorious part of us being Christains. We long to be together and it would certainly be easier but is direcctly contrary to who and what we are called to be and do- to evalgelize the lost, care for the needy and love our enemies. Yes, that means letting them live in our community-darn it! Because, like you and many of our family members, at times I think I would be perfectly content to live my life on the porch swing with my family and closest friends and do no work at all. If THAT doesn't expose my selfish and sinful nature...But realisticly I know that we would tire of each other and I would feel the longing to search for souls. If THAT doesn't speak of God's purposeful and graceful nature...

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

I'm convinced that the breakdown of traditional communities is responsible for so much of what is wrong with our society today. A few years ago I actually put up a website talking about how that relates to at home moms here.

Anyway, I can really relate to this post and have had all of these same thoughts. Great post.