Are we not all like captains of
some tiny little barque, cast adrift
in a great, lonely sea? We are
headed to points unknown, flying
in fear from where we have been
and hoping that we will find safe
harbor and a place for us to shine
as we were meant to do. And what
do we do if meet another barque
traveling adrift through the same
seas, waiting on favorable winds
to get to the same port that we are
going to? Do we chat with the master
of that ship, and inquire as to how such
strangers of ourselves are headed from
distant lands to the same hoped-for
haven? Do we become friends and
work together along this voyage that we
have undertaken separately? Or do
we fear them as competition, afraid
that there is not room enough in the
port we hope to find for all of us who
seek refuge there?
Yesterday was a day full of awkward conversations and interactions. Admittedly, I am a fairly awkward person, but I am sure that the awkwardness is not all on my side. I think in general life presents us with plenty of occasions to be awkward. There are situations of delicacy where a bit of light humor cuts the awkwardness, and plenty of cases where ships passing in the sea can spend a bit of time communicating but where there is no evident interest for sailing together. I am reminded of Lorde’s song “Writer In The Dark” where she reflects on her intensity and how it makes it easy for people to enjoy a bit of time with her but hard to enjoy things for the long term, especially since all of one’s involvements with writers tend to become fodder for their writing, and not everyone is particularly fond of that.
Of course, when we look at life, we are all to some extent ships on a sea, or, as I have sometimes imagined it, spaceships making their way through the vast gulf of outer space. Not everyone sees life this way. There are some people, for example, who are always surrounded by people and would like a great deal more space, emotional and physical, for themselves. Others are happy with intimacy and have no problem being close to people. When we look at the universe around us, we see a massive amount of space. The total amount of the solar system or galaxies or known universe that is filled with something is vanishingly small. The space between planets and solar system and so on is often extremely large. The reason for this is that a great deal of space appears necessary to keep everything stable. For life to exist there must be stability and reliability, and too many other large objects around makes one’s own orbit and survival too uncertain. So it is with people as well. Even insecurity and instability can feel normal to us, and it’s hard to change our patterns of being. Those of us who tend to dwell in more solitary reaches of space have a hard time bridging that gap, and the result is a lot of awkwardness.
Yet it is important to know that no matter how awkward we are as people, we do not travel alone. Even if we were to live in the most remote areas with the highest degree of isolation, we would still be connected in some fashion with the larger world. We would have people who remembered us, people whom we remembered or had interacted with, people from whom we acquired skills that we may not use in isolation (like social skills) or others that we may have learned from others, or from books or videos created by others. Most of us, of course, live in areas where we are surrounded by many people, whether we live in small villages with nosy neighbors or urban or suburban areas in neighborhoods or apartment buildings. We work in offices, we shop in malls or online where there are a lot of people, we drive on roads where we are all captains of lonely barques in a great sea, often surrounded by other vehicles whose occupants and their lives we know nothing about.
It is not merely living surrounded by other people that makes us feel part of a community. We may live in large metropolitan areas and work in office buildings where we are continually interacting with other people , and yet we may feel rather solitary no matter how many people are looking what we do. On the contrary, we may be in the most isolated of places and not feel alone because we can feel God’s presence or because we have love in our hearts for others who may not be present, or perhaps for the plants and animals or rocks who are present around us in those wilderness places. How do we reach beyond the isolation that our existence has, if we indeed have the desire to do so? That is something I often ponder, and if I live an awkward life, it is in general not nearly as isolated a life I would live if I had no desire to reach out and connect at all, even if it is not always easy to manage.
 See, for example: