Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Bread and Circuses" -- No, thanks.

People tell me I need to get out more and socialize.  The problem with that is I don't find much pleasure in the kinds of things that most people think of as fun.

Entertainment purely for the purpose of passing the time annoys me. When I see a large sporting event or concert on TV, I am reminded of the Colosseum where Rome used entertainment as a mechanism of social control. Sometimes it seems to me that our culture encourages us to participate in elaborate (and expensive) entertainment events for much the same reason. If we're busy watching the Super Bowl or NASCAR we won't be thinking about the worsening financial and social inequities in our country.

My problem with "entertainment" is largely due to introversion exacerbated by a mild case of agoraphobia. Crowds are a horrible challenge for me. It isn't that I don't like engaging with people. I actually love a really good conversation with a smart and engaging person. I'll talk all night with someone who wants to talk about hopes and dreams, politics, religion, or economics. I did that all the time when I was in college.

The last time I had the glorious experience of engaging another mind for an all-night chat about really big issues was a number of years ago. I attended a workshop for lay teachers at a school of theology. The last-night party was boozy and loud. [Episcopalian theologians are allowed to drink; in fact, I think it might be a requirement.] Somehow I ended up in a corner with an Anglican priest who was just returning from a long, silent retreat. He was as freaked out by the crowd as I was, but he was also in the mood to talk. I asked a lot of questions. Everybody else went to bed, and the housekeeping staff put the wine away, but they left out a cooler of beer. We drank and talked all night. About 6:00 AM, we went to our rooms, showered and then went to meet the airport shuttle. There is nothing  I like better than an all-night conversation with someone who has an interesting point of view -- especially if it's very different from mine.

I guess after I quit going to church I have been moving in the wrong circles for meeting people like that. People tell me I need to get out more and socialize. I have tried that, and I hate it. I can't stand small talk or idle chatter.

Call me strange, but my idea of fun is not going to a ballgame or a concert or a bar, or even going on a vacation. My idea of fun is engaging with ideas. That is truly the most fun when it's with another person, one-on-one -- best of all if food and wine or good coffee are a part of the experience. If that is not possible, then I like to engage with others, either by reading their writing or listening to them speak. [See or] I'd rather be alone than be in the company of people who bore me or passing the time being "entertained" by experiences that cost too much and rarely give me any real pleasure.  I can always find an interesting book to read. Sometimes, I choose to write my own.

Occasionally I get lonely, but I have discovered that going out for purely casual social interactions makes me more lonely and frustrated than staying home reading a good book, working on one of my stories or watching TED Talks.

A tiny voice wonders if that's really how I want to grow old. My Soul responds that it would be better than forcing myself to do things that don't make me happy now on the (highly unlikely) chance that I'll meet someone of interest in any of those places. The Universe is pretty good at managing to make sure I get what I need, so if it offers me a random gift, I'll consider it. However, I spend enough hours every week at my day job to waste any of my precious spare time or money on time sucks that don't nurture my soul.

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