Sunday, June 01, 2008

The band saw effect.

Wow. What a great comment (on my last blog entry.) I have been thinking about it all morning. I think I did understand that, but had forgotten the whole concept. It made me think about my own personality too – and how much that does not resonate with me. What I mean is, when I first read that, my initial thought was: It’s going to cost so much more than $600 for that band saw! You are going to have to be this person’s friend now and they are going to ask you to their next barbecue and then when you go -- when you really don’t want to go --you will have the further frustration that this band saw-person thinks they did YOU a favor by inviting you to the BBQ! When you NEVER wanted to go in the first place. Now you are in a relationship with this person and you will have to hear about this and that and they are going to start sucking your blood and you will eventually be trying to avoid eye contact with this person when you go to church and then even what you got from church is now compromised by this crazy band saw person!

And then I thought, what a horrible person I am. And then it sent me down this rabbit hole of thinking – like what am I? Someone who doesn’t need anybody? I mean, that is really not true. I do need other people. But I think, for me – maybe because how I was raised, but maybe just because of my innate personality, I don’t know, but for me, people always wanted me to do things for them. I saw people, generally, as weak and me as strong (I don't know if that is really true, but it's my knee jerk reaction) and I was always worried about what they were going to expect from me. When I went to college, I wanted to go where I didn’t know anyone. I wanted to go to the biggest college I could. I wanted to walk around all day long and not know one single soul. And I did, and for a couple of years, I often had two or three days a week when I was on campus and didn’t talk to anyone. I felt like a I was in Rome or Paris, I could just watch people.

But then I became good friends with a group – because I wanted to, because I probably needed to. They were great, they are all still good friends. I joined the Seattle Film Society and worked with the organizers who all became close to me, in fact several of them were at my wedding a few weeks ago. And we do things for each other – read scripts, see shows and comment on them. Jim Emerson, one of these people and one of my closest friends, has often been such a person-with-a-band-saw for me – in terms of his opinion on work that I’m doing. When I think of the band saw analogy – I think what I mostly need in a pinch, that is very expensive because it’s so rare – is someone, someone who I respect’s -- opinion. Those people are few. They would not necessarily be found at a church, although they certainly could be.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, it’s really the group. It’s the church group. It’s those people I have a basic problem with. And yet that seems so arrogant to write. I feel that it sounds superior and that is embarrassing to me. And I’m sure that all those people at church have other groups of people too that they use to find band saws when needed and also enjoy because they have a common interest.

I guess that’s it. A common interest. I don’t think it’s enough for me, the random gathering of people at a church.

Often people ask my why I’m not a Unitarian – because you can be part of a church and not have to believe in God. But when they say that, I think, “I already have too much to do! I am not looking for another social group to be part of! I am trying to be in fewer social groups.”

I am such a curmudgeon! But I think for me, what I got out of Catholicism, what made it hard for me to leave, what added value to my life was… well to be honest, it was the art of it. It worked for me the way good art is supposed to work. It took me out of my little self and put me in context. The image I get is not of individuals, but of a whole community – the way, for example, Who Ville is portrayed in The Grinch. I liked the feeling of being in community where the faces were blurred but there was a sense of humanity, I liked the music (Bach masses still send me tears and throw me out of myself, it’s almost as if a crane shot is built into every Bach mass) I liked the ritual.

But now I get that from other places.

But, but, but… What about kids? Like that Catholic woman on the plane said, she didn’t join a church until she had kids. Why? She didn’t need a support group of families before then. She is attempting to make the world a smaller and more recognizable place for her children, and for her, being Catholic delivers that.

For me, well, I guess I must admit that I understand that. I have a group of parents that I am friends with. One family in particular that I can count on in an emergency. Other families too. We met because our children all attend the same school. We see each other like a church too – the science fair, the international fair, the winter concert, etc.

So I guess I’m thinking, why can’t that woman get what she needs from the school system? Or in her quilting group? Or her skydiving group? Or at the local art museum. Why does it have to be at a place where you are required to sit through a bunch of complete bullshit and inculcate hogwash into your children’s worldview, crippling them as critical thinkers for their whole life!

All right. I’ll calm down. Ha. Wow, I got so fired up there.

p.s. I re-spelled Kluge correctly in the last post. How embarrassing!


Anonymous said...

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend reading Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. It got me thinking about a lot about the role of churches as meeting places. I've also been thinking about churches' roles as meeting places replacing secular meeting places such as community centers and so forth.

One of Putnam's points is the importance of organizations that bring together people who do not share interests. Such organizations bring together people from quite different backgrounds, which has the effect of encouraging us to learn a bit more about each other. The result is that we speak less in terms of "them" and more in terms of "us".

I know you probably have way too many people saying "You've just got to read this book!" Well, add me to the list of people saying that.

Rich Beckman said...

I love the band-saw effect. All of my life I have avoided such a situation.

Despite a Roman Catholic upbringing, I have never been comfortable in any situation that might have had a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" element to it.

I'm always happy to help anyone out whenever I can, but I certainly do not expect anything in return.

I try to accept favors only from those who seem to have the same attitude.

You should check out this blog. You two seem to have a lot in common:

Anonymous said...

Ironically, my departure from Catholicism began after returning from a Jesuit college education (Gonzaga - the real one in Spokane, not those posers back east).

My college years marked the apex of my faith, and I should add that that was MUCH different than "religiosity"; the Jesuits were so laid back in their teaching that it allowed me to accept what I felt was the good - mostly the community - without the "do this or you're going to hell" browbeating I got at home prior to that.

When I returned to Seattle (this was in 1990) the church I'd grown up with (which is also where I went to grade school) was a cold splash of water to the face. There was a small but vocal contingent that was pushing very hard for the service to return to Latin, which the priest turned with his back to the congregation. That was just part of it, but I believe it was essentially a push for a pre-Vatican II liturgy.

After seeing that everything to fall apart for me. I began to notice how people like my parent would nitpick how people were dressed - how dare they wear shorts to mass! - and the whole hypocrisy of it all.

Throw in a good pedophile priest scandal and requisite cover up and that was all I needed to arrive at the conclusion that this was all a sham.

So here I am, just turned 40, and still single. Various people tell me "You know Paul, you should go to church. There are a ton of women there." And you know, they're right. But I can't bring myself to go to church so I can get laid.

Well, that and being pissed off that no priest ever hit on me. I mean, come on! I was a good looking kid. What's up with that?

I'm kidding of course. I don't believe anymore, so I can't go back even if it is for a short time to find a nice woman.

Ironically, my morals, which were mostly honed by going to private school all the way through college, are preventing me from going to church.

Rich Beckman said...

"So here I am, just turned 40, and still single..people tell me "You know Paul, you should go to church. There are a ton of women there"...But I can't bring myself to go to church so I can get laid."

Ha! I went through exactly that!! I wish I could say it was my morals that kept me away...

I just couldn't stand the idea of sitting through a church service.

Not even to get laid!!!

Anonymous said...

Way to go with the band-saw analogy. My partner & I have a community that is helping us since I fell and tore all the ligaments in my left ankle Jan. 15, 2008 -- my vet (who has become a friend), one of our vet techs, a couple of friends, so... community. Good community rocks. I have a low tolerance for being too plugged in anywhere. Need my space. But this community has stepped up to the plate and then some. My Southern Baptist (in church every Sunday and then some) relatives have yet to even send me a "get well" card. Go figure.

tall penguin said...

Rich Beckman commented on my blog that we seemed to be writing on the same subject today. So, I thought I'd pop by and have a look.

"I guess that’s it. A common interest. I don’t think it’s enough for me, the random gathering of people at a church."

I can relate. I'm a former Jehovah's Witness. And I've been shunned by the people I once thought were my tribe.

Perhaps a common interest is not necessarily what binds a group; perhaps it's the unspoken commitment not to question that common interest. It's the silent upholding of "truth" in the face of reason. It's the collective desire to bury one's head in the sand.

I'm without tribe. Good thing I don't need a band saw.

Sheldon said...

Regarding bandsaws, RonStrelecki said...
Atheists have none of this. There is no gathering point. There's no hangout.

I couldn't disagree more, Ron! We may not have weekly meetings like the "believers," but we have many gathering points. Hundreds and hundreds of atheist meet-ups occur every year around the world. I go to as many as I can, but I need to get better about organizing them locally as well. It may not be the mindless, Stepford-wife meetings so many people engage in each Sunday morning, but it's something!

Anonymous said...

wallyhartshorn said: "...importance of organizations that bring together people who do not share interests. Such organizations bring together people from quite different backgrounds, which has the effect of encouraging us to learn a bit more about each other."

But every organization or group of people has something in common (its purpose), all other interests being independent. This is as true of church as of anything else; presumably, churchgoers do share a common interest in their religion. The supposed distinction favoring church as a gathering point of persons of diverse backgrounds over nonreligious groups is a falsehood.

Unknown said...

Very interesting conversation. I have a group of friends called the "fiendz" (once someone misspelled friends when emailing the group, and it stuck). This group started about 20 years ago, and continues to grow and add members. Periodically, someone will host the "Church of the Pina Colada". It's the only church I can abide! On the other hand, as my parents age, I am grateful that they have a church they attend, and it does serve the "band saw" purpose.

Anonymous said...

Great topic. At the Ethical Society of St. Louis, which is like a church except for humanists, we often see that people come to join us when they're in transition and need community--children, a divorce or death, moving or a new job or job-loss, all of these things disrupt people's communities and send them looking for new ones.

I joined an Ethical Society (in North Carolina) after moving there and needing to meet people. And I checked out the Quakers and Unitarians, but as an atheist I wasn't really comfortable, although the people were nice.

But "community," even like-minded, interest-sharing community (Ethical Societies attract liberal activists, so there's a lot of shared interests) is still hard, especially for those of us raised in middle-class America, used to being "independent," meaning each has his or her own bandsaw and doesn't need to (eek!) rely on anyone else, or have anyone (double eek!) rely on you. I actually find this a lonely (and resource-wasting) mindset, and yet it's still really hard to get out of. I'd love to hear if/how others open themselves to interdependence.

K.C. said...

I had an experience a bit similar at church recently, sitting there with my children.

Listening to the sermon and wondering. Am I letting them listen to something that is completely wrong? Am I letting them be filled with something that is just a lie?

Am I just giving them a sense of belonging? Is this just a false sense of security?

It is something that I am coming to grips with in my life. I have been dealing with it for the past year. I want them to have a very happy life. I have had a reasonably happy life, but there has been a sense of "something missing". There has been a sense of "there is something that someone is not telling me".

Seems like "they", whoever "they" are, know it in church. But, then again, maybe I am mistaken. Working on that really hard... KC

Anonymous said...

I don't get this "...crippling them as critical thinkers for their whole life!"
your thinking doesn't seem to be crippled, I know mine isn't.
I only spent a couple of years in catholic school, but, while I sat there obediently and parroted back 'right' answers, I never believed in the nuns there or wanted to be like them-they were nasty and dried up inside-they weren't a good advertisement for their religion, so I didn't buy into it.
When there are arguments about school vouchers (which I figure we should provide for only the poorest people so they have a choice for their kids' education) , I can't understand the idea that it promotes religion- to me, you let someone select catholic school, you pretty much guarantee that they won't grow up catholic.
I'm pretty sure lots of people belong to churches but don't actually sit through sermons or attend weekly services, so that's not really a 'requirement'-I enjoy mystery novels, and those with a priest,minister, or rabbi as protagonist usually discuss as fact that the majority of congregants only show up at easter and christmas, or for the high holydays, so I figured people join whichever without much sitting through the bs and lots don't use the associated religious school, but partake of the activities of their choice.
Quilting group?-nice old ladies, but you can't trade off child care with them. Skydiving club?-um, women with young children are probably the least into that activity, wouldn't you think?-they aren't high on the risk taking scale and usually don't have a lot of extra cash .
I suppose not using the public school as social group would have to do with the fact that it's already too big an influence and one wants to expand the variety of people their kids are exposed to-I tend to think of the public school as fairly indoctrinating-I think it installed more of the mental chains that I needed to shake off than anyplace else did-just my experience of it.

Anonymous said...

i dont understand how people can deny the existance of God evidence for God is all around somethings we dont understand like cancer or mental disorders or national or world disasters but God is in control