Searching the Internet, looking at cities, and watching the news nightly it is amazing that there is so much happening at any one given point in time. Cars race by on a local highway, to or from where, I truly don’t know. In the nearby city of Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan area millions of people are working in some way to provide for themselves and give their life meaning. Strange.
I’m reading a book on a Tuesday afternoon in November wondering who I am and where is home. Also strange.
Reading can do that to us, especially if we connect in some way with the narrative. We aren’t particularly great at noticing how often what media we are taking in influences our thoughts, emotions, and desires, but it does, and we let it. Sometimes we force it to, reading and watching things to help us be or seem to be the people we think we are or ought to be. It’s kind of daft, kind of brilliant.
I read to escape, to go somewhere else. My favorite books are of the fantasy genre, Lord of the Rings and the like. I love being transported to a new world, some place where all my expectations are completely blown away and where good always wins. I love how strong and brave the heroes can be, how utterly evil the bad guys are. It isn’t that way in real life, but when you read a fantasy book the bad guys are bad and the good guys are good and there isn’t always a lot of in between.
What I really love about reading is that it takes you to a big, open, far away new place, but it takes you there small. What I mean is, it doesn’t take you to a macro view of this new world, but takes you to an intimate and close relationship with a core group of characters whose actions impact the macro-narrative but whose thoughts, feelings, and desires you read and contend with in real time.
Reading brings me into a pre-built community. It’s small. I love it.
There are so many big things out there, so many places where you can get lost in a crowd. While I have been trying to figure myself out and learn where I fit, I’ve often looked at crowds of people in big spaces and wondered where I belong, how do I fit? Looking at things that way I have felt that I should pack up and leave, let go of society, and move to somewhere away from where I am.
I want to go far.
While I want to go far, travel far away to find some lost, mysterious thing that I am looking for, what I really want is to move small. I want to move into a closer community of folks who all know each other and see each other regularly, spending time at each others houses and living in communion through good times and challenges. I long for the small-town America feel of mom-and-pop shops, corner stores, local ice cream and knowing everyones names.
Reading about macro worlds in fantasy novels piques my curiosity for how these people continue to struggle together, work together, grow and learn together, and ultimately stay together in all things. Although I am transported to an entirely new fiction, a world created from the head of an author, what transfixes me in this world is the micro relationships, the smallness of the story.
In my mind, you just have to escape this world to get that. Utterly false, but I’ve taught myself to believe that by reading fantasy books for years.
What I truly need is to move small. To find a community to settle into, to care about, and to focus on. It’s necessary and good to travel, to expand our horizons and learn about other cultures. I believe that, and want to travel. On the other hand, what I really want is roots in one place, with one people, making a difference in a small way, in close relationships with those around me.
Perhaps we aren’t all this way, but I believe there is something inherent in human nature that makes us desire to create spaces for people. We don’t have villages and towns and cities and homes because we want to be alone. There aren’t many who want to live by themselves in the middle of nowhere, no, what we want is groups of people who are our people, and while that leads to trouble in many ways, it is the beating of our hearts to know that we belong. We have a place, a space, a group that is ours.
It’s hard to do that big, hard for us to feel belonging while looking at the macro. We need to zoom in, to get close, to get small, and to let our lives be micro. Wherever we find ourselves, we need groups of people in our proximity who care for us, are invested in us, and want to see us grow.
It’s taken me a long time to realize I don’t need to be somewhere else, but to focus smaller on where I am.