the bubble has burst

and we are cast asunder

to the wind

to the four corners

of this fragile earth

and broken and bruised

we begin again

to reaccumulate

to reforge

to rebuild

to try to be what we believe that we may be

in time

(for Julia)


What do you do when the bubble bursts?

Forest Bubble by ecstaticistI have many questions running through my head right now, lots of unresolved issues, and precious little mental and emotional energy to engage with them all. But there is one pressing question that I know I share with all of my fellow post-l’Abri-ers: “What do we do now!?!

We have lived intense, close, communal lives in a little bubble in Hampshire, and our lives have changed as a result. We bear the marks of community life, we’ve tasted of forbidden fruit, and we know that our lives just can’t be the same afterwards. We have lived a life that is at once harder and more beautiful, more fully human, than we thought possible, but have been thrown out again, into the petty, busy, messy, lonely materialistic-individualistic society of our birth. But we don’t fit here any more.

None of us are the same as we were. None of us feel at home in our old houses, with our old friends and families, workplaces and churches. We are feeling homesick for a place that no longer exists, yearning for friendships that have been shattered by the UK immigration department and scattered across the globe, never to be reformed (at least, not all together, not in the same way).

A weeks holiday in Dorset, with beautiful, beloved l’Abri friends was spent trying desperately to forget the impending separation, and seeking any possible fantasy to reforge our community life. We sought any possible farm or cottage that could play the part of a community ‘home’ for us, as we knew we had just been made homeless. It was not to be, because our dreams need time to coalesce out of fantasy and into a more possible substance. By the time that they do, and the dreamed-of farms and community houses begin to take shape, we will be long parted, and unable to draw back together.

Perhaps it is ever thus. Friendships form out of shared experience, and after that experience is ended, there is less and less that we have in common, less and less for us to gather round. The friendships need new experiences to share, or else slowly succumb to reminiscence and gradual drifting apart.

But even if we discount the tearing apart of friendships, there is more here. For we have tasted real community, the brutal reality of shared life, and we know we will never be the same. Talking to one good friend last night, who is 4 months ahead of me on this post-l’Abri journey, we discussed the reality of mourning the death of community. We experienced something powerful, that is now lost to us, and every alternative seems shallow and worthless. We are left grieving for an unrepeatable moment, looking at every gathering and shared life thinking ‘why are you not more like…?

I want to believe that it is possible to find a form of community that isn’t so cyclical and temporary, that doesn’t suck you in and then spit you out. But life as a student at l’Abri would not be sustainable in the long term: it is too tiring, too intense, too insular. But does that mean that there aren’t other possibilities? Other ways together and genuinely share life?

I hope so. For now I just know that the bubble has bust, and it has thrown me out with my ears ringing. I am in a profound state of shock. We can only see what there will be when the ringing dies down…

5 thoughts on “Pop!

  1. and how do we mourn something not dead: the community is only sleeping. i am hounded by possibility of waking it. the ringing in my ears is the roar of the tyrant choice: limitless options of geography and career, of roadtrips and internships; of play, flight, escape.

    should we kill it properly? allow it to die gracefully, unplugging the skype that would have us live both here and there, and reinvesting ourselves? It took 7 months of full time work to form Us, these are friends to change the world with.

    how should we value that which we have invisibly between us? the tacit expression, the rhythm of life, the tasted possibility of Another way. can it be written, could it be shown, need it be contextualised and expressed?

    or should we dare to hope? to hope to direct this limbo period towards laying the ground for planting this seed we have, and equipping ourselves to water it.

  2. Steven Carlson says:

    from Gibran’s “The Prophet”:

    (on Love)-
    “let these be your desires:
    To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
    To know the pain of too much tenderness.
    To be wounded by your own understanding of Love.
    And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
    To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;” <—I feel very deeply that this describes quite accurately our shared lives at L’Abri.
    (on Joy and Sorrow)-
    “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughters rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives.
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

    So this is where we are…mourning/grieving and celebrating. How can we better understand this mystery of grieving and mourning in the present moment wearing celebration’s clothes? I am back now, and I am aware that I am in a “season of mourning”. I want to be in this season. I do not a festival of dancing, or a feast of many colours. I want a forest of trees, cliffs with beaches at the bottom to sit for hours in contemplation and silence, hearing the waves kiss the shore.
    I hold many questions in my pockets as well. And Andy, thank you for writing this blog. What is temporary and what is permanent in this life here? We will eventually leave every place we ever live. We will eventually say goodbye to every friend we have ever made. Everything will eventually die. Life and death, O, where is your distinction? Are we heading towards more life or death? Where are we going? In the meantime, in the present, with memories of the past and dreams of the future, the trinitarian questions of “where have you been?”, “where are you now?”, and “where are you going?” resound in the echoing spheres of our worlds. From her corner she shouts aloud, “I am here!” and from his island he sings, “Here I am!” and from there farm, they say, “Here. We are here!”
    We mourn was has been lost to us. I am seeing the truth in that everyday has just as much mourning as celebrating. We are mourning was has been lost to us. It is not dead, the seeds that have been sewn will continue to be watered, and the gardens and the forests that have been planted in each of us will continue to grow and bloom. In what time? In what way? Where?

    How should we “live in the moment”? I echo Phil, *HOW should we hope? And WHAT shall we hope for? We have been introduced to this economy of Gifts, and now we are aware of our presence and involvement in it. Where to go from here?

    Do we continue on, admitting that we have little pockets of “home” scattered about the world, abroad, near us, down the street…where do plant our roots again? and with whom? we have found the children with the secrets to the universe. We’ve been equipped to change the world with small acts of love, giving of gifts…and the changing has already begun…
    There’s not much more that I know, than that.

  3. Anna Shogren says:

    Thanks, friends.
    I’m rereading Utopian Dreams right now, oh it makes me Hope. I’m so glad to hear what all the rest of you are thinking. Most moments of my daily life are continually influenced by you and L’Abri.

    There is no going back to being satisfied with how I used to live. Is it up to us to be the new Homemakers?

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