Each and every one of us has one obligation, during the bewildered days of our pilgrimage here: the saving of his own soul, and secondarily and incidentally thereby affecting for good such other souls as come under our influence
And in his brain,
Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit
After a voyage, he hath strange pieces cramm’d
With observation, the which he vents
In mangled forms.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Once upon a time, I used to be a real snob about not watching tv, like somehow not watching it gave me extra cool points or mean I had some greater degree of moral fiber than the person in the next apartment over who might be actually growing into the fabric of their couch because they never stop watching tv. I got real snobby and judgy about what tv I would watch, too. Most of what I watched was on PBS…like at least 90%, except for the 10% of Seinfeld reruns and Family Guy episodes I would watch between the end of the Jim Lehr News Hour and Charlie Rose. When I say I was a snob, I really mean it.
And then one day, I fell deeply and passionately in love with a man who really appreciates what tv, at it’s very best, has to offer. The man watches some tv. He watches Very Good tv, and he’s also a really good watcher and appreciator of the medium. Like he really gets into it. This makes watching tv something I really enjoy now, and not just because I’m learning something, but because I’m also being entertained by professionals, some of whom are pretty damn good.
I still gravitate toward some of the nerdier and book-wormy fair–I really really really liked Dr Who. I will freak the deuce out about Downton Abbey. I binged watched Arrested Development and Breaking Bad and Sister Wives and sometimes, backlogged episodes of Chopped and This Old House. I will still spend whole weeks re-watching Ken Burns’ documentaries, and he watches Dexter and Walking Dead on Saturday mornings when I sleep in. We watch Bob’s Burgers, religiously. It’s one of the weekly rituals of our marriage. I am very grateful that my beloved has taught me to love and appreciate tv, all over again.
Lately, we’ve been watching a new show–or at least new to me. I love it when the hubs introduces me to a show I’ve never seen, and there are already several seasons to enjoy on our streaming service. The new show I’ve thrown myself into is An Idiot Abroad. We’ve just finished the second season. And the other night, I had a dream that I beat up Karl Pilkington for not changing the tires on my car, like I told him to. Seriously…not even making that up. I even told my husband about it, the next morning.
This show is kind of a game changer, you guys. I mean, the show is funny, the production values are very British, and the star of the show is much like a really likeable child-free Homer Simpson. He’s being sent off on fabulous travel adventures, whole lists of them, with side trips all along the way. Sometimes, he even accidentally finds himself having a good time. But he’s never really comfortable. The only times you see him let go and be in the moment are when he’s either overwhelmed by exhaustion, in accepting (sometimes grudgingly) hospitality, or when there’s familiar food or music involved. He reminds me of me.
He reminds me of how I navigate being a stranger in a strange land–in Babylon. There are some things worth seeing here. There are beautiful things to see, and hear, and take part in. But I will never be comfortable here. I will romanticize my version of home, even to the point of making it fantasy. Like Karl, I don’t want to offend anyone, so when someone offers me something, I try to take it in the right way. Mostly, I just don’t want to be a big deal, or create any fuss, or look like the idiot I may very well be. I want to get my manners right. But I also don’t want to put that weird hat on that you’re handing me right now, but I don’t think I know a nice way to tell you that so YAY! A new hat…Thank you for this new hat.
Karl reminds me that the difference between a trip and a pilgrimage is all about intentional engagement. If I’m taking a trip, odds are I’m focused on getting to a destination, and I want to get to that place so that the trip can really start. But if I’m on a pilgrimage, I’m out to see everything–because the trip starts with the first step, everything along the way informs the way I will eventually see whatever is my destination, but that first step is just as important as the last step, as all the squillion steps in the middle.
If I will let myself go, and just hum along with whatever is being hummed, or take a sip of what’s being offered, I stand a reasonably good chance of being pleasantly surprised by life, by hope, by moments of deep community and connectedness. But to get to that point, I have to get past my hang ups about all the different things I’m seeing or hearing or having to confront.
Even though this is Babylon, because of God’s great grace and mercy, if we are willing to look closely at this world full of Good Fridays, we find Easter Sundays everywhere. If I can hold those two realities in my hand–the assurance of the ever present brokenness of the world in one, and the sure and certain hope that all things are being made new, I can peek over the walls, or through the windows, or our the door, no matter where I am, and see home.
And that’s not such a bad thing to learn from a tv show.