Monday, May 01, 2006

Refuge in the Trivial

(This may describe about half of the population.)

At the dance studio the instructors competed to be silly. One girl was beautiful, very popular and about the most flippant of the crowd. One day it got around that her husband was in the hospital. I asked her how he was doing; her whole demeanor took a 180 degree turn; she became a real person, if only for a moment.


Three men made it possible for me to go through a pretty fundamentalist seminary with a minimum of discomfort. These men had all been educated at Edinburgh (for some reason this was considered acceptable to those in charge).

Dr. St Amant, a cajun who had been liberated to a large degree from the cultural rut taught Church History. One morning he began with a sort of aside: in a half hour ride on the streetcar down St. Chas Ave. he had been appalled at the general conversation of the other riders-- uniform trivialities.

(St. Amant was too big for that seminary; he moved to Louisville, and the last I heard he was president of a seminary in Geneva.)

Uniform trivialities: yes! I didn't get his education, but all my life I've been appalled by it. No one is interested in serious talk. Why?

Can it be because it's just threatening? Afraid to show something about yourself that you want hidden? just generally ignorant and afraid to display that? (a particular fear I've never suffered from!)

Don't be afraid? Say who you are. You're much more likely to be admired than otherwise. You will find people eager to talk to you about serious things. If you show any interest, you may go to bed that night a better person.

Generally speaking people cling to the trivial in their conversation because they are afraid of intimacy (everyone fears intimacy, and longs for it; to welcome intimacy is a fine art.) But the first 50 times you reveal your identity may be the hardest.


isaiah said...

"Generally speaking people cling to the trivial in their conversation because they are afraid of intimacy (everyone fears intimacy, and longs for it; to welcome intimacy is a fine art.)"

I agree- but once this fear is conqured one cannot go back. We do, all long for intimacy and it begins with realizingwho you are and who others are...and not being afraid to say....I love you.

I love you Larry.

Larry said...

Be sure that is mutual, Isaiah; that's all we have to do in life.

Jon said...

Interesting. I definitely understand what you're saying. "How 'bout them Yankees?" etc. etc. and all the mindless gossip about celebrities and co-workers.

Yet I wonder if all fluff is trivial? I'm much more of a "holy fool" than a sage. It's Frimmin' at the jimjam, frippin' at the krotz!" with me, and I'm sure I impress many folks as silly.

But that silliness is a big part of me, it's part of how I amuse myself and hope to amuse others.

I wonder why God became incarnate in us? To have deep conversations? Sure. But also to chat 'bout them Yankees, too.

Jon said...

And you both should know it already, but I love you guys, too!

xianchick said...

I married a small talker. He is very kind, but hates to think. I love him very deeply, but I have to look elsewhere for stimulating conversation.

luckily, he means well, and he tries, so sometimes I get some great insight, and it is always very simple: which can be a bright spot in my otherwise overcomplicated outlook.

for the most part though, I'd rather have crabs than talk to one of them.

Larry said...

Xian, unequally (intellectually) yoked may well be the biggest problem in marriage; it seems extremely rare that a couple have approximately the same mental, moral and spiritual gifts.

Speaking of my seminary teachers the best one for me was a brilliant man who had brought light to many a 'fundy' in his denomination (finally got fired for it!); but his wife was out of the (intellectual!) picture entirely. (As I think about it, that may have led to his excellency as a teacher, but only for the few who were able to grasp the truth as he did.)

What to do? Suck it up, as they say; make the best of it. God will lead you to give him all you have, and both be blessed thereby.

All of these gracious responses really 'prime the pump for me:
Re is all fluff trivial? Well yes, but I agree there may be a place for the trivial--"all work makes Jack a dull boy".

Re humor: that's a horse of a different color. Jokes, yes. Norman Cousins laughed himself out of cancer. And Jesus could be excruciatingly funny; he told a rich man there was more chance for a camel to go through eye of a needle...

Jon, I'm sure your personality is God's gift to you, and to us all. Hurrah!

anonymous julie said...


I like what Jon said about balance; there's nothing wrong with the trivial, per se... but I understand the frustration and Larry's sentiment.

Lately I've landed in many conversations about faith and God and church and frustrations and fears and life. I don't even know how they start, maybe it's me sometimes. It seems that many people are willing and wanting to talk, listen, share experiences. Somebody just has to break the ice enough to let them know that it's okay.

And I've spent the last couple of weeks on the other side of that table, at my new job. The first week was toughest. This is week 3.

So, why? Yes, it's threatening! It's scary! If I let on even a little bit to who I am, well, what will they think? What if they don't like me? What if, what if they actually mock me? Those are the stupid fears that sometimes can't be chased away. The only way to learn is to do the scary thing and see what happens.

Larry; I think the needle's eye was the after-hours man-door into Jerusalem...

But we first have to quit hiding from ourselves.

Great post, Larry.