I liked the way that Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith Show, that 1960s treasure about American small town life in "Mayberry", had an angle on everything. When I was a boy, one of the two barbershops in town featured a sightless man who shined shoes (such a movie stand-in notion that he could not exist, but did), and ample copies of Field and Stream. The conversation hovered around fabulous sums of money to be made in earthworm farms, and the wonders of newly acquired bluetick hounds.
The barber always said "do you want me to thin it out a bit?", which, to me, sounds like "do you want a light trim?", but actually means "should I descend upon your head like a pestilential tribe of locusts, biting, hacking and chopping our hair until only thin morsels of hair remain atop your head?".
LiveJournal is sometimes like those trips to the barber, both in childhood and on television. A dialogue seems to be about one thing, and then proves to be about something else. People have fixed ideas worthy of Floyd the Barber back in Mayberry, and sometimes I realize that I am myself Floyd the Barber, which is actually a relief, rather, because often I feel more like Howard Sprague.
You may remember Howard Sprague, the well-meaning fellow who seemed to get into a pickle on the basis of being no worse than someone who thought too much, over-analyzed, and failed to strike when the iron was hot, waiting until it had cooled enough to put him into mischief. I always liked Howard Sprague, but in the way that one likes a pencil-thin moustache, in part because it is interesting and in part because there's just something bashful about it all.
I liked the way people in Mayberry lived completely different lives, and yet they all somehow fit together. Never mind that Aunt Bea and Otis came from entirely different habits and social strata. They spoke some ineffable language, impossible to repeat, inescapable for them both. I like the way that on-line community can be just as difficult to explain or resist.
I know how it is to live among folks that one must see again, every day, so one must maintain a cordiality, even when one fundamentally "does not get along" with someone. But so often on-line, one gets along with almost everyone, but sometimes the spaces in between stand out. I have a LiveJournal friend who just began posting lately, after a hiatus. But in the meantime, one of those impossible to understand LiveJournal quirks turned her comments button off. When she detected it, she left a message "I can't figure out how to turn my comments on, please leave me an e mail at the address on my info page". The problem, of course, is that she no longer had an e mail address on her info page. Absent a fair bit of google detective work, it would be impossible to contact her.
I applaud that LJ has that convention in which one posts one's emergency contact information, although I am so easy to find in general that I've not availed myself of it. But in the LiveJournal community, the moving van pulls up and people drive away, before you realize it. One LJ friend did the familiar "delete this journal, start that one with far fewer friends" recently, which is actually not a completely bad way to trim a friends' list without causing undue LJ soap opera. But it was a curious feeling, that sense of "oh, she's deleted, hope she's okay", only to run across the new journal by chance one day, and realize "she's okay, but I'm a little less okay" (which, by the way, is completely okay). It's curious how the circadian rhythm of deletion of journals makes them seem to come in droves, as do additions. I used to fancy that it was a function of how I posted, but then I realized that the moon has phases.
I must confess, though, that I love the sheer Mayberryness of my friends' list. I love to read stories of lives that happen every day, and deep thoughts by thinkers, and wonderful literature by literati. I might on any given day be treated to photos of Aussie ski slopes or tropical birds in Sydney, to winter scenes of abandoned places in Michigan, to family sagas more complicated than Forsyte, or to simple, compelling tales of the dilemmae of living we all face. I often read wonderful stories, better than the usual novel I've been reading at any given time. But it's that sense of "small town" that brings me back to Mayberry. I am a small town boy at heart, even though I've lived in the city for decades.
I notice that, despite all those scriptural injunctions about going to hell for passing judgment, I regularly tote up pluses and minuses of other peoples' choices, although I am kind enough not to let anyone but me know unless I am asked (or provoked, or just routinely thoughtless).I try to avoid this error, and learn to just accept and flow with ideas and feelings. I find that I love the exclamation point, the power of words, and simple good-hearted mixed-up people, as we are all just people, really.
I like the non-mercantile nature of the community feeling. I like the idea that I encounter dozens of people from whom I wish no money or gift, don't wish to sleep with, and don't need any tangible or intangible thing, in a material sense. I need only that sense of community, which matters to me.
When you light incense, the smoke is real and its pungency defines everything, but it's so ephemeral that you can't hold on to it at all. It's a bit like that here--I can't grasp anyone or anything at all, really, but I do love the smoke. Sometimes I regret later silly things I've said. Sometimes I wonder if I could say more, or less. But I never regret believe that the smoke isn't real, just because I can't really put my heavy-handed mitts upon it.
I don't really ascribe to be the wise sheriff or the comic deputy or the curious mechanic destined for Vegas crooning fame. When I was a boy, the little Methodist church had an evening worship, with "regulars". We were not really regulars, though we went in the morning, and when the church youth group went in the evening. The evening service was always informal, quiet, with familiar hymns and light attendance. The sermon was like a simple homily, the whole escapade an act of non-judgmental togetherness.
Despite my own personal failings of having opinions about everything, I find that life works best when one accepts anything non-harmful, and defines "non-harmful" tolerantly. I've been reading about this guy Francis in Europe that they made a saint, and I like that for all his ascetic tendencies, he rarely thumped the table about the one right way to do anything.
Of course, life is not really a small town called Mayberry, a fictional place in North Carolina based upon a now-cancelled American television show. Mayberry is an idea, though, in my head--a notion of tolerance, and quiet fun.
As I skim my friends' list, I see rages expressed, joys shared, hardships endured, memories savored. I read about triumphs of poetry, defeats in corporate jousts. I read of romantic longing and simple satiation. I read about people whose stated beliefs are as different as different can be, and yet the least alike in notions are frequently the most alike in behavior.
I went to the dominoes.com site, to try to find a local dominoes tournament. They had dozens of game rules there, from the pokery pai gow to the just odd chickenscratch. But they all were played with dominoes.
I am so pleased that I found so many domino games to observe. I try not to just be a watcher from the skies, though, but also someone who speaks and contributes. I wish that sometimes I could say something more 'real' than I do about the many things I read for which I have no words. I love that sense that just around the corner dozens of other unmet friends exist, for the meeting.
People on Livejournal drive me to marvel, they drive me to laugh, they sometimes drive me to tears. They bring out my prayers, and my rapt attention, and my daily habitual attendance. I like that LiveJournal is like every small town I know. I know a few small towns.
I learn so much here, and that's nice. But mostly there's a sense of sharing--test runs of literature, communions of feelings and ideas. It doesn't matter that nobody exactly shares my faith, my politics, my dilemmae, my fears. It's enough to know that the other folks are out like other katydids, on other branches, legs flailing like violins as they play their songs into the night air.
Today went by so fast this weekend, it feels as if it barely happened. But I thought about how much I like it here, and how much the people here mean to me.