Let me start by saying last night I finally finished Brene' Brown's Braving the Wilderness. In the book she talks about something called inextricable connection. It is this idea that as humans we all crave a connection to a higher purpose. I kept waiting for her to get to the solution, and by the end of the book she did. She said it is in our presence with others, both one on one, but more importantly as a collective in large events. Concerts, plays and even sporting events allows us all to experience joy and connection and as a result leave our lonely places and perhaps feel more alive.
I had it happen repeatedly this weekend.
It started with my presenting my experiences as a writer to the high school students at Waukesha South. The coolest part of the whole day was seeing the great diversity of South. There were African American, Asian, Hispanic and white kids everywhere I looked. It is the most racially diverse high school in the county and Friday reminded me of why I am so glad my kids attended there. In this polarized country and hyper segregated region that we live in, this school experience was a pocket of fresh air and hope for me.
Then, on Friday night, we went down and saw two bands, Driveway Thriftdwellers and Zach Pietrini and his band at Anodyne Coffee. And there is nothing more connecting for a large group than music, in my opinion. Each concert we attend is a unique entity, etched in time between everyone who is present. When the lead guitarist went into a long riveting solo, my son turned around and said "That guy is badass," which is EXACTLY what I was thinking. It was a moment of connection between the musician, my son and me. Ben then mentioned that the guy could easily launch into a Pink Floyd solo, because he was that good. The Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) concert he and I attended wall forever remain a connection point, a shared experience between the two of us that will always tie us to something (humanity) bigger than both of us.
On Saturday I attended the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books at UW Waukesha. I really only attended two sessions, but they were both right in line with this idea of collective consciousness, connection and being part of something bigger.
- The first session was a panel discussion on the 50 year recognition of the fair housing marches in Milwaukee. During it they kept mentioning the strife and racial tensions and riots during the summer of 1967. And I couldn't get out of my mind my own memory of 1967 - it was in June of that year that my father was murdered in a racial incident in St. Paul, Minnesota. The panelists were educating me as to what was going on here, 300 miles away from similar things going on in Minnesota. I am so glad I attended the session, but for me it was a reminder that his death was part of the fallout of a nationwide movement to wake us all up to injustice. It is what it is - a long time ago - but my story was only one story of many in the room at the time. (One I didn't reveal, because it didn't seem like the place.)
- The second session was called The New Normal and addressed three women writers who had stories of pain and loss with their children or grandchildren. They talked about how writing about their child's medical conditions (and deaths in some cases) was their only way to process the pain of it. It dredged up my own experience with writing about my brother Rob, my dad and my sister, Linda's lives and deaths. Again, I didn't know (all of) these people real well, but through a communal discussion, could immediately relate to their human experience. It was a room full of shared grieving, as I am certain anyone in there could have told a similar story.
And finally today we gathered as a church for worship as CollectiveMKE. This combines all the elements above, music, fellowship connection and sharing our lives. All of these things make me realize how alive I am despite all the pain I carry every day. These things fill me.
Brene' Brown says in her book Braving the Wilderness,
"Collective assembly meets primal human yearnings for shared social experiences."
Well, amen to that, sister.
And this was a weekend that reminded me that getting out of the house and away from isolation is probably the most important thing a person can do sometimes.