Desire is the engine of life, the yearning that goads us forward with stops along the way, but it has no destination, no final stop, except death.
– Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking
This week I am writing with Martha, Rose, Gail, David, and Julio in mind. My weekend was filled with them, filled before they arrived, while they were here, and when they left. I am still filled with them. Like a pick-up game of basketball, I assume, this weekend was a pick-up game of community. Friends came together for some activity and left sated. At least I did.
Gail arrived at 2:00 on Sunday. She could get one scout badge for punctuality and another for accountability. She remembered to ignore Dexter when she walked in, saving her skin for another day. She was in my home to roll up her sleeves in preparation for an exhibit of my late-husband’s work.
Rose and I had been pouring over hundreds of works on paper that Paul made as a child. We were deep into this edit when Gail arrived; she slipped into the activity and the warm appreciation we had of the privilege to have it all before us. In minutes, she confessed she had started to edit her children’s art collections. The sheer volume of their holdings made keeping them all impossible. Rose and I commented that we had none of our childhood creations.
Paul’s childhood pieces of paper with pencil, crayon, pastel, and paint – they so quickly brought us to desires of our own. We wanted to be remembered, to be encouraged, to be celebrated, to have known greater or different support, to be better at parenting, befriending, painting. We wanted our friend, my husband, back.
In that air, for four hours Gail looked at slide sets, photos, and negatives. The three of us together reviewed a score of self-portraits. Several times she asked, “What is your vision for this exhibition? What do you want?” I know I was unusually vague. She knows I have a point of view. But what I ultimately came to was this. I wanted to have a shared aesthetic, one reflecting her point of view, Rose’s, and mine. I wanted to feel that sense that we were all thinking, could all respectfully define our position, risk it, change it. In other words, I wanted Paul back.
People in community identify themselves as a group through their interactions and sharing. Their beliefs, preferences, needs, resources, and desires affect the degree to which they connect. These factors can be learned over time or assessed through community audits over weeks or months. But Gail just walked in and made these factors available to all. In that vulnerability, community can happen.