Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Sharing The Things I Love

Jed Bartlet, West Wing, Two Cathedrals, Martin Sheen, National Cathedral
by Ben Howard

Last night I got to do one of those things that everyone loves to do. I introduced my friends to something I like.

Every Wednesday, like many others, I meet with a group of friends from the church I attend to have a bible study or a small group or whatever in-vogue church-y phrase you use to describe people getting together to talk about stuff.

Last night, our discussion centered around The West Wing episode "Two Cathedrals." If you're unfamiliar with the show, this episode centers around two elements: the funeral of President Bartlet's longtime friend and secretary Mrs. Landingham and President Bartlet's announcement that he has multiple sclerosis and his subsequent decision to run for re-election. It's a beautifully shot, beautifully written story and it regularly comes up in discussions about the best TV episodes ever.

Now, while I would love to keep waxing rhapsodic about The West Wing, that's not where I want to focus my attention today.

You see, I realized on my drive home that this was one of the first times I had shared an episode of The West Wing, a show I adore, with friends of mine who had never experienced it. And what do you do when you're sharing something you love with friends who haven't seen it? You spend most of your time looking around making sure they enjoy it; making sure they laugh at the jokes, feel the weight of the serious scenes, checking to see if it connects to them the same way it connects to you.

national cathedral, washington d.c., west wing, two cathedrals, front of churchAnd there are a few reasons for this little mid-viewing check-up. First, I just want to make sure they don't hate it. Somehow, I feel like my reputation, my taste, is on the line when I share something with my friends. I feel somehow responsible for their enjoyment. And that leads to the second reason: I want to make sure that not only do they not hate what I'm sharing, I hope they just straight-up like it.

I'm sure all of this sounds obvious, but here's the kicker. I feel like this is all so important because of what their enjoyment does for me. 

When I share something, whether it's a TV show, or a song, or even just a quote from a book I'm reading, what I'm really doing is trying to reveal a piece of myself. And somehow, through the transitive property of things that touch the soul, their mutual engagement with that same show or song or line makes me feel more connected to them.

I've noticed within myself a certain creativity when it comes to snark and criticism. I can joke and deconstruct with wit and style, but I can't do the same with beauty. When I try and say good things, hopeful things, beautiful things they come out trite and cliched and hackneyed. Somehow, my words and my methods of communication fail to elucidate the myriad complexity of a deeper, ineffable good that permeates existence.

And to bridge that gap, I need you to hear this song, I need you to read this phrase, I need you to watch this movie. I need you to feel what I feel so that I can know I'm not alone; so I can know what it feels like to be understood.

This is why I love church. It's especially why I love Advent, and Lent, and Ash Wednesday, and Holy Saturday. It's why I love taking communion with friends and strangers, holding candles, hearing a harp or an organ, and repeating the same words that my people, people I've never met, have said for centuries.

catholic, national cathedral, candles, lighting, memorialI can't explain God to you, I can't unravel the mysteries of the universe, and my best attempts sound empty. 

But I can share this moment that I love with you and we can watch The West Wing together. Because loving Jed Bartlet says something about me, something I want you to know, but something I can't quite say. It brings us closer, and that is good.

Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.  

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