We've been compressing time for as long as there has been time. Poetry, prose, movies, plays...all of them compress time. What takes days, weeks or years to happen in reality gets compressed into easier-to-handle slices of time. Things like love or hope become a little stereotyped so that readers or viewers can recognize them clearly and quickly. But in reality, things like hope and love happen all the time, but not nicely compressed and laid out for easy consumption.
I recently had a bit of an epiphany that made me feel better. A little. I was re-reading a book, written by a close acquaintance of mine, Pat Jobe. In this 2008 book, Falling In Love With Everything: A memoir, but mostly made up, hope happens at normal life speed in the early part of Chapter 21 (reprinted here with Pat's consent).
To set this up, this is one of a series of conversations with Tinkerbell Starbelly, who is Pat's somewhat real, somewhat made up sweetheart /muse/nemesis. Throughout the book, she seems to want desperately to validate his falling in love with everything, but just can't seem to get herself to buy it.
Tinkerbell Starbelly and I decided to play a game. We sought ways to disprove my love for everything. We drove across the James Island bridge from the south into Charleston and looked out on the spot where the Ashley and Cooper rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.
“You are not, you could not possibly be in love with children living in refugee camps in Rwanda because their parents were chopped to death with machetes,” she told me as we looked out on all that ocean, those sailboats and that lovely city by the sea.
"Would I prefer they not have camps to live in?" I asked her.
“You would prefer that they had their parents and the war that killed their parents had never happened,” she said.
“Yes, but I don’t have that power, do I? I can’t make that happen.”
“No, but you certainly can’t be in love with the fact that it did happen,” she insisted.
“So what is the better choice? How do you react to children in a refugee camp in Rwanda?” I asked.
It makes me sad, frustrated, angry, afraid something like that could happens to members of my own family or friends,” she said.
“And what comes of your sadness, frustration, anger and fear?” I asked.
“I participate in the broad discussion of the issues. I support organizations that are working for a better world for those children. I let people in my church know of efforts being made by others in our larger church family,” she said.
“Sometimes I do those things, too. So, how are we different? I fall in love with children in refugee camps and do what I can to help them. You feel sad about children in refugee camps and do what you can to help them. How are we different? Being in love with everything doesn’t mean I have to be so overjoyed with any injustice that I ignore it or refuse to do anything I can to set things right. It simply means I draw energy and strength and joy from being in love with everything. Besides, being in love with everything does not preclude some sadness or even righteous anger at injustice. Being in love often gives me the energy to feel whatever sadness or anger I need to get through a tough place.”
“Ok, that sounded almost normal, reasonable, practical,” she said.
“Don’t go all soft on me,” I teased. Her eyes narrowed like she might slap me.