Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who Is the "We?"

The Member of the Wedding
by Carson McCullers

The other potential title for this post was "I would not go back to being 12 years old for any amount of money." Adolescence is just painful, which Carson McCullers seems to totally "get." She especially gets how it is for girls. If you have read McCullers' masterpiece The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, you will remember the character of Mick Kelley. Frankie Addams, the protagonist of The Member of the Wedding, reminded me a lot of Mick. They both have a restlessness and an unslaked thirst for connection with other people that McCullers is able to articulate in a wrenching way.

Frankie is a motherless child whose father seems to be without a clue as to how to relate to her or what her needs might be. He is not mean or malicious, just distant. Frankie is all too aware of the truth that even though she lives under the same roof as her father and is looked after by Berenice, the family cook, she is essentially alone in the world. This truth that we can occupy space with other people yet still be terribly isolated inside is one of the hardest things to face in life. Carson McCullers, in the character of Frankie, expresses the yearning for contact and the longing to be heard and honored that I think all of us (if we are honest) experience at some point along the way.

In an understandable if misguided way Frankie latches on to the idea that her older brother and his new bride will take her to live with them, that the three of them will be a family unit. She expresses to herself "They are the we of me." Those few poignant words sum up what she is so desperately seeking. Don't we all need to have a "we"? As I made effort to express in a sermon I recently wrote, when the church (or any faith community) is at its best, we can be the "we" for each other, providing an anchor for people and a place to share the inevitable sorrows and punctuating joys of life, a place where we can help each other grow into the people God is calling us to be. We can be the "we" for people outside our walls who are utterly alone. When we fail to be the "we" for each other, and when we fail to recognize that we are called to see all of humanity as a "we" (as opposed to "us" and "them"), IMHO not much else matters. Not programs. Not great music. Not activities. Not even sermons. Those are all important things that add to our life together, but until we become the "We" the purpose of all the rest is lost.

We are a work in progress, working toward the "WE." (As opposed to the Wii, although they are very cool and I'll probably break down and get one for E. and the boys when they are older).

So, does anyone else out there like Carson McCullers? If so, what is your favorite? I have only read the two I have mentioned in this post, but plan to work through all her writings eventually. I have heard that the novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is wonderful.

Reverent Reader


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