Today we went to a family re-union/wedding celebration and it was interesting to have so many ideologies, paradigms and world-views all under one roof. My family is very egalitarian, in that there isn't really a hierarchy to do with age or experience, as there is in my husband's family where Mama, wonderful as she is, calls the shots. In my family, conversation is a real turn-taking event and after gaps of many months, we all passionately update each other on the latest.
We represent such diversity. Amongst my family there are agnostics, Christians, heterosexuals, homosexuals, university educated, entrepreneurial but not university educated, cultured and traveled, untraveled, upper middle class and upper working class (I use these labels loosely), evangelical 'ish', post-evangelical, Anglican, Quaker, seeking, pluralistic, scientists, artists, linguists, psychotherapists, English, Italian, Canadian, Polish...4 to 94...
Conversation is interesting and at times risky. Decisions have to be made about how much you allow your own paradigm to expose itself in your language choices. Decisions have to be made about how generous you are to yourself, by staying true to your beliefs and open about your motivations or about how generous you are to the person with whom you converse, by not causing your paradigm to jar too obviously with theirs. Is it possible to achieve both? Yes but with serious care.
And so we travel home a little buffeted but enriched, glad of the opportunity to breathe the air outside the Church, when so much of the air we breathe is inside it.
We travel home realising that we are deciding to live a different sort of life, a little frightened by the obviousness of the choice because we realise that it is not other people's, but very glad to be doing so, nevertheless. Was it ever really our choice, anyway?
A very interesting thing happened out of which any psycho-analyst would have got lots of mileage. My sister brought face paints for the children of the family to enjoy but being the rather eccentric creatures that we are, we all ended up sporting certain designs on our faces and I wonder how much we were communicating our identity through the symbols we chose to adorn ourselves with. As we looked at each other's faces, and laughed at our silliness, we soon forgot to see the designs and looked past them and saw the reality of the other person, so that no matter how much we think we represent a fixed point of view, the reality is, we are all just rather bruised and frail human-beings, navigating our way through this world, some of us living in the 'inbetween times', others very much in the present, some with their eyes on the future and some with their eyes on the past, some confidently, some nervously but all of us hopefully.