Not long ago, my neighbors and I got together for a quiet tea-and-knitting evening. The idea was to enjoy some company and maybe get a small project done or add a few rows onto a knitting project. We all brought things to nibble and the hostess made ginger tea. Some of us knit, one of us sorted receipts, and the others just came for the company. Busy schedules aside, this was easy to organize and easy to pull together. Not much happened: a few inches of a scarf came into being, a few stories were told, several cups of tea were drunk. Wild times, eh?
OK, so our gathering might not have seemed wild but in some ways it was pretty radical. Why? For one thing, we weren't consuming anything, except for maybe a little tea. We weren't shopping, or seeing a movie or watching TV, or eating at an expensive restaurant. We weren't consuming content on our iPads and phones. Since we were neighbors, we didn't even drive a vehicle to get there. In this culture, to be engaged in an activity for over two hours and not be consuming something is pretty unusual. Think about it. How many of your activities are either about consumption or working to pay for said consumption?
Also radical was to spend some quiet time in the company of neighbors. Neighbors are interesting. Like our work colleagues and unlike our friends and lovers, we don't choose them and yet they can have a persistent presence in our lives. They're not quite strangers but not quite inner circle, either. I'm fortunate that my neighbors are very fine people whose basic world views aren't that different than mine but even if they were polar opposites, and perhaps especially if they were, such a gathering would be a good, and perhaps even a truly radical, thing to do.
I hope its possible for you to find the time and space in your life for small gatherings like this. It doesn't have to be tea-and-knitting, of course, although it seems like having a task to work on is helpful and can often be just enough to encourage a busy person to say yes. But it's not necessary. What was so wonderful about this gathering was its small scale. It wasn't a dinner party or even a pot luck. It was mostly about the company, and spending some quiet time in the company of fellow human beings doing what human beings have been doing since the beginning: taking care of things, telling stories, being in good company.
(Image: Dana Velden)