Exploring an Empty Barrel

I spent part of the last hour of this morning reading bits and pieces of about six months’ worth of newsletters from the Lake Chapala Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I’m not sure just why I found my way there. I started my related web travels by exploring car rental agencies in Ajijic but somehow crept across the street and down the road to the LCUUF , located in the same building as the Naked Stage, a readers’ theatre that is, as far as I can tell, like readers’ theaters everywhere. LCUUF, from what I gather from its website, is like other Unitarian Univeralist congregations, as one would expect. The difference, of course, is that it is located in an extremely “multicultural” community. I was interested to learn that the October 20 service, entitled “Crossing Cultures,” described as follows:

Most of us are migrants, people who’ve chosen to live in a culture different than our birth culture. How we do our living in a different land varies: some of us attempt to recreate ‘old home’ behind walls and gates, others ‘go native’, others somewhere in between. What does our approach to multiculturalism say about our worldview, our relationship with other people? How do we deepen our awareness and engagement with people of other cultures? How do we learn to live in ease in a multicultural world.

I wish I had known about the service before I bought our tickets; I might have stayed a few days longer just so I could have attended. Surprisingly, it has never occurred to me that ex-pats from the U.S. (and elsewhere) experience many of the same challenges and opportunities and fears and joys that immigrants to the States experience. Fortunately, ex-pats in Mexico don’t experience the level of rage and hatred and contempt (at least not yet) that so many immigrants in the U.S. experience. My interest in the service is based, I suppose, on learning what migrants say about their experience. And my interest in the LCUUF website, I suppose, is based on understanding the extent to which UUs in Mexico are (or are not) living within their own, non-multicultural world. That is, do they isolate themselves (at least socially) from the culture of which they are now a part? Or do they embrace the role of “minority” participant in a society that is truly foreign to them? Based on the service description, I suspect there’s a range of levels of integration and/or isolation; I’d like to hear the issue of integration discussed by people who live it; or don’t.

As long as my wife is not enthusiastic about exploring life in Mexico, I will not make any plans to do it. Which means, I expect, I will not do it; not now, not in the future. We bought our home here with the expectation and agreement, I think, that this would be “it.” Our final home. That sounds, to me, a little restrictive; a bit like deciding to live in a cage with no escape. Oh, I know, I’m being overly dramatic. I do that sometimes.

I wonder, though, if some day she might be amenable to living in or near Ajijic (or somewhere else, for that matter) for at least a few months at a time? I doubt I’ll ask her any time soon. We both have our own medical issues with which to wrestle, which makes the idea of embarking on a foreign adventure of any significant duration a bit more than ill-advised. But I can dream, can’t I? Yet I don’t even seem to have sufficient discipline to learn Spanish; whenever I begin, I encounter the idea, a few days in, of “why the hell bother…I’ll never really use it enough to go the trouble, will I?” For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to call up some legitimate reason to back away from significant commitments like moving to Mexico or living life on the road or what have you. I don’t know whether I’m afraid of the decision or the way it might wreck my stable, if somewhat boring, life. Stability. It has its benefits; it has its prices, too. The bottom line is that I’ll never sacrifice my wife’s happiness and comfort to enable me to pursue a wild hair that might well turn to a steel piano wire with which to strangle myself.

Back to LCUUF. I think I visited the website for the same reason I’ve visited several other UU websites in months and years past: to find something that will convince me the people are, or are not, “my people.” I’m still not sure. The simple fact that they do not buy into religious dogma does not make them intelligent, nor does it make them progressive or possessed of common sense or other traits I find appealing. So I suppose it’s safe to assume involvement in UU is not a sufficient measure that a person meets my measure of someone who could be “my people.” And, frankly, I’m not sure there are such measures. I mean, I know people who are conservative, very religious, and seemingly void of common sense that I find appealing (though they are not “my people,” by the way). So what is it that I’ve been after for these past 66 (almost) years? I’ve found a few of them. But even a two or three hour drive seems like a long drive when there are so many meaningless, mundane, utterly annoying errands and obligations to fulfill. Achhh!

I envision a small group of people who are fun to be around (and who find us fun, too) who meet regularly for drinks or dinner or both, who enjoy similar activities, who are willing to explore one anothers’ interests even when they don’t mirror others’, and who otherwise are appealing. And intelligent. And nonjudgmental. And progressive. And who can laugh…but who are fiercely opinionated and who, therefore, can snarl appropriately with the best of them. I’m wandering around my own mind as if it were an empty barrel and my ideas were bouncing off the sides in ricochet fashion. And that’s precisely what’s happening, I guess. Empty. That word always triggers the memory of a line from a Paul Simon song: “Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.” Let me begin to close this with a flippant comment; “I don’t know who the hell this Kathy is.” Seriously, though, the sense of emptiness always accompanies tentative explorations of things beyond my reach. Which may explain why emptiness is such a common companion; there are so many things beyond my reach. But, then, there are a million things beyond the reach of billions of us. Does that mean that we’re all awash in emptiness? I suspect not, but there’s no way to determine whether that’s true or not.

It’s past 1:00 p.m. I haven’t yet showered or shaved. What a sloth I am. Time to get tidied up for an early dinner out; only four hours away (our neighbors eat early; they agreed to an hour delay as a compromise, I think). That parenthetical comment is not entirely true. But they do prefer to eat early. Which is fine. To each his own. Or her own. I’m trying to teach myself not to be tolerant but, instead, accepting. I think I could use a tutor.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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