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 try to be what we believe that we may be
What do you do when the bubble bursts?
I 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…