Ah yes, my other thought: I went to Vancouver this weekend, and it was frustrating. I am beginning to think that there are few better ways to estrange a man from his family than a liberal education. I don’t mean “liberal” like “leftist”, I mean generous, holistic, spanning lots of different areas. A technical education teaches you a skill; a liberal education teaches you how to think and learn, how to discuss and argue.
But I suppose it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to love, which is perhaps what I’m having trouble with. And there’s that whole thing about speaking the truth, which is another thing that’s hard. In my visits home in the last few years, I’ve been watching my family change. But I’m not sure I would call it growth, because, well, I don’t like where it’s headed. But I can’t presume that I’m just an impartial observer to this change, since I am, after all, a part of my family.
How do you tell someone, ever so gently, that there’s more to life than keeping up with the neighbors? In the past two years my folks have bought a new barbecue, a new hot tub, and a new coat of paint on the house. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but we don’t really need any of it. My mom is saving money for a cruise. Um, why? And why are we getting all of these things a couple years after our neighbors get them? Didn’t our neighbor just go on a cruise last summer? It stinks of jealousy to me. I hate it.
My mom and I were working on FAFSA stuff the other night, and she didn’t want to report her cruise money as part of our assets. “I’ve got to have something for me, sometimes!” she cried defensively. I hadn’t said a word against it, but since she brought it up . . .
“That’s fine Mom, but isn’t it important to be, you know, honest about this stuff? After all, not everyone can afford to go on a cruise.”
“Well, everyone I know!”
Ah, there it was. Keeping up with the Joneses. Or the band parents, in this case.
See, I’ve been thinking a lot about community, because I just moved into a house with seven other guys, and we decided not to have any computers on the main floor between noon and midnight, to foster community. Too often people just sit on their wireless laptops while they eat or watch TV (which we don’t have on any floor—I know, we’re snobs), and that kind of inhibits real interaction.
And I’ve been thinking about what community revolves around, because it was my job last year to build community, and it’s my job again this year to do the same thing. Communities revolve around something. Communities can revolve around video games, or sports, or knitting, or whatever. That’s fine. I think a good community revolves around its members, and the Church, as a community, revolves around the Trinity. Cool.
My family, as a community, revolves around television and computers. I went home and the only way I could spend “quality time” with either of my brothers was to watch shitty B-movies (“Mall Cop” and “Megashark versus Giant Octopus”, if you’re dying to know) upstairs while we both simultaneously got on our laptops. Anything other than this generally results in an argument; I literally had to harrass my youngest brother into having a conversation with me. As soon as we started talking about anything meaningful, he left the room. He’s 17. That’s disappointing, and frustrating, and sad.
But what can I do about this? What role have I played, other than no role at all? My absence doesn’t imply complicity: I’ve been at school. But what can I do from here? I feel a little helpless.
Maybe I need to be home this summer, but not for my sake. That would be hard.
I’ll keep praying about this.