Last night’s choir rehearsal was very satisfying. The choir has buckled down and risen to some challenging pieces this season to nicely mix contradictory metaphors. Last Sunday, we sang John Tavener. Next Sunday we are doing a fine arrangement by Undine Moore of “I believe this is Jesus.” We worked hard on that last night and it was sounding very good. Then we ended the rehearsal working intensely on a William Byrd setting, Teach Me O Lord, which is very beautiful. When the choir digs in like this it reminds me why I find this part of my work so rewarding.
Ezra Klein has a new book coming out, Why We’re Polarized. In his latest podcast, he reads from it. If I understand correctly, Klein describes our polarization as one of identity and not primarily convictions. He cites all kind of science for this. And it aligns with much of my own understandings about the basic evolutionary instinct bred in all humans to be part of a group that is best defined by who is not in the group.
My problem is that when I examine my own life long sense of who I am, though I think of myself as having a clear strong one it is not one that has easily aligns with specific groups.
I have been thinking a lot about isolation and the connection between having strong relationships with other people and living longer. Klein cites studies that point loneliness produces harmful physiological changes in the body.
However he also cites studies that support an increase in tolerance when one has cross allegiances to differing groups.
Anyway, I have pre-ordered his book as an Audible book.
I have known people who have clearly defined identities such as Irish Catholic, Dutch Calvinist, and so on. I can remember one such person (an RC priest) asking me pointblank if I had never wanted to be part of a group. I had to confess that I didn’t have an impulse in that manner.
I’m working on what this means for me. I have some ideas. My Father and his Father have always seemed to me as a bit of outsiders in their profession of ministry. And I have admired them for this. My own relationship to church seem to disintegrate in my youth. I can remember some formative experiences. One was a Church of God youth convention during which I learned that the denomination was half African American but that there were few mixed congregations. This was in the late sixties so the context of this discussion was a very turbulent America. It was along about this time that I began to perceive my own disenchantment with what I had experienced of church.
I’m talking about this because it seems to me that religion is a primary group that people identify with in Klein’s terms.
I have been drawn to beauty in my life. This may have something to do with some early experiences as a child I barely remember. I’m thinking here of a friend of my parents in Tennessee named Elizabeth (that’s all I can remember) who took me on “nature walks.” I think this may have heightened my appreciation and even passion for beauty at a formative time.
My passions for music, poetry, history, the humanities, visual arts, and the like may be connected this. But most of my life I have found myself choosing paths that are unique and not ones heavily under-girded with like minded people or groups.
Playing music with friends in Rock bands and my graduate degree were exceptions to this. But the people involved and I have largely become disconnected.
I can remember thinking that when people pursued doctoral degrees, their study, especially the final oral examination before a committee, felt like they had to demonstrate a clear willingness to approach their field in the manner prescribed by their teachers and the general field. I see the sense in this, but it always repelled me slightly and had the feel of passing initiation into a sort of good old boy club, as indeed many fields have been. Hopefully this is changing.
Anyway, you can see I’m chewing on this and I have more ideas than need to be written down here right now. Fortunately, I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. I hope I can find a way to talk to him about this.
On a related topic, it seems that my social life as a temporary bachelor is picking up a bit. I am meeting Scott and Barb Anderson (mentioned here recently) for supper tomorrow night before the Great Performance Series. And on Sunday, I will have lunch with other church members after Eucharist for our Annual Meeting. And then my friend Rhonda has invited me over for supper that evening with her and her family.
Not bad for a hermit.