Monday, August 1, 2016

Where I Am and Where I Was

It's been a very long time since I posted anything here. Mea culpa! I got hired about two years ago to write for America Magazine, and since then most of my (publishable) crazy thoughts have gone to them.

At some point I'd like to come back to the original purpose I used this for, which is sort of sketches and thoughts about God and the world. But it could be a while...

For now, if you're at all interested in what I'm up to, you can find me at America's Dispatches blog writing about California, pop culture and spirituality. Or I'm on Twitter @popculturpriest. 

I also just started a weekly newsletter about pop culture and spirituality called "Pop Culture Spirit Wow", which you can sign up for here.

And for those who actually still get updates from this blog or occasionally check to see its/my state of disrepair, a little something for you.

In May I had the good fortune to go to Paris. I'd never been, had no idea what to expect. Was actually kind of scared about the trip, even more than going to China, if you can believe that, just because I don't speak French and I had heard Parisians don't take kindly to that oh so American reality.

As it turns out, the people were fantastic, and I had a great time.

And I noticed something there. Their cafes -- bistros, brasseries -- all have outdoor seating where the seats face not one another but the street in front of them.

Classic French Cafe Culture 

I don't know if that sounds like a big deal but it's actually kind of extraordinary. First of all, imagine walking down the block, coming around a corner, and suddenly finding like a hundred people staring at you.

Yeah, it's kind of weird. More than once I found myself turning right around and going a different way.

But when you're the one sitting in the chair, looking out on the world, it's such an extraordinary experience. Sure, there can be a little voyeurism or maybe even objectification. But really, it's like the set up of the chairs is meant to help you see that the world around is not just something to rush through, a set of obstacles to overcome, but itself a rich source of meaning and contemplation.

I ended up spending hours upon hours each day just sitting in patisseries, watching the world go by. The rain. The cars. The passersby, like the old man who stopped with his younger date at the end of their evening together, and put his hand up to her face and kissed her on the cheek in a tender but lingering way that invited something more, if she wanted.

She politely smiled, and said good night.

And he nodded, maybe a tiny bit bittersweet but only just that. Clearly happy for what he had gotten, even just that lingering kiss.

And he crossed the street into the night.

The world -- it's so much more beautiful and interesting than we usually have time for.

A shot from my favorite place my last night in Paris.