Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal/Theological Notebook--Loneliness

It's weird. Today I spent talking to lots of people, here and there. I was surrounded by people. Fellow students in the department, as I ate lunch, sitting in his office with the professor I'm working for, talking shop. Studying in the library into the evening (on a Friday!) with my study-buddy Shawnee and chatting here and there. But so lonely for some reason.

In the last year, I've begun to really envy my married friends: to have that kind of relationship, one of ongoing casual contact, great moments of togetherness, just as great moments of I-don't-get-you-and-right-now-don't-know- if-I-even-want-to which are nevertheless faithfully walked through. I've been lucky in my friendships: some of them, despite distance, are as deep as friendship can seem to go, but that singular type of friendship, yeah, I envy you that.

I was telling God about it a bit ago, addressing the open air in my apartment, having done so much apologetic writing the last few days that I don't find myself particularly believing tonight. All of it gets wrapped up in that emotion for me: loneliness/despair/disbelief. Lewis wrote that it was in doing apologetics that he felt belief at its weakest, knowing the flaws in every argument, in every chain of logic and history you sew together. I know the mood and I've learned to tolerate it, like being sick and in the hospital and deciding that "it's fine to die now, I just want to stop throwing up." But as I said, I was talking to God about being lonely and I was reminded of old Griff back at Notre Dame, how he came sliding up to me one day in the library and introduced himself by asking his trademark question, whether I thought God was lonely, just like I was afraid he was going to. The late Fr. Robert Griffin was a priest, writer, rector and character around Notre Dame (and summers in New York City), and was particularly loved by the disaffected and the fringe, especially in the 60s and 70s. In 1993 when I arrived, he was at the end of his writing career, and as the years passed and we inevitably met, like two weak magnets inevitably being drawn toward one another as time allowed, we ended up become friends and regular lunch and dinner partners. He frequently addressed me as "Raskolnikov" and I've long been too afraid to actually read Crime and Punishment for fear that I might come to understand why. And tonight in this room, I was reminded too of my favourite newspaper column of his, from a 1973 collection entitled In the Kingdom of the Lonely God. I don't know why. This is how it begins, though, and is the paragraph that I loved.

What I really want for Christmas this year is a storefront church of my very own: a spiritual flophouse on Eighth Avenue full of Spirit-talk and Jesus-bums, with a corner reserved for winos; a skid row motherhouse for nuns in search of relevance; a supply depot for virgins negotiating the price of oil. A storefront church: a Jesus-joint vibrating with the acid beat of salvation rock, with posters of day-glo and night-lights by strobe, and a dancing line of chorus girls tattooed with Bible verses whose kneecaps, read in sequence, will dimple in and out with messages from John 3:16.

The column goes on, to its own hitherto unfathomable conclusion. But why was I reminded of this column, now? I am lonely. Griff was lonely. He figured God was lonely, too. Did God slip a Lonely Hearts Club lineup into my head--me, God, Griff--to distract me from myself and through oblique paths of grace thus cure me? I haven't the foggiest how that works. And presto! now I'm chatting with Zee online for the first time. Am I now not so lonely? I guess I'm not. What does that mean? I guess maybe it means that life is characterized by its unexpectedness, its reversals: constant work and contact that seem to somehow fail to fill the heart of you; new acquaintances who dispel solitude with casual conversation; salvation found in the long legs of dancers who'll do anything for a buck. What does that mean for me? I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

'Night, all.
Tags: friends-marquette era, friends-notre dame era, literary, personal, quotations, theological notebook, writing

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