By Kenneth Justice
~ Yesterday at coffee a friend of mine was telling me that he’s never made the right kind of connections in life, “I’ve never been good at playing the game and schmoozing with the big dogs” he said, “I’ve always been more likely to become good friends with the janitors and coffee barista’s then with the CEO’s or General Manager’s” he said
My friend was implying that this was a short-coming on his part; because he’s never developed the knack for rubbing shoulders with ‘important people’ he somehow felt that this was something to be sorrowful over,
“But dude” I said, “You’ve got a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan, you’re fairly accomplished in your profession, and in my eyes you are one of the important people; you’re humble, laid back, you’ve been a faithful friend to me, and half the people who come to sit at our table are coming here to hang out because they love you!” I said
Yesterday I wrote an article about unscheduled community; the idea of having a common meeting place where friends and acquaintances can simply show up unannounced. My friend that I was sitting with has been one of the central characters in the coffee shop that I’ve been hanging out at for the last 5 years. Despite being a full time high school teacher; my friend spends a lot of time at the café and many of us regulars swing by the place hoping he will be there.
Unscheduled community only works if you have people who are willing to sacrifice their time for the people at the bottom. If you’re only looking to hang out with Governors, Prime Ministers, Presidents and CEO’s, then you’re probably not interested in unscheduled community because those type of people rarely step out of their bubbles of importance to see what life is like for the rest of the world.
Unscheduled community is not a new phenomenon but rather its second nature to other cultures outside of the Western World where hanging out with acquaintances, friends, and family without having to set appointments is merely a way of life. As I wrote yesterday, in much of Latin America they don’t need coffee shops because the people simply hang out together anywhere and everywhere; it’s a way of life.
Unscheduled community happens to be the main theme in some of the most popular television shows of all time,
—-) The TV show Seinfeld was all about unscheduled community; whether it was his friends dropping by his apartment unannounced, or Jerry and the gang showing up to Monk’s Café; the show was likely popular because of the connections and community feel of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, George, and all the other wacky people who would show up.
—-) Friends had a similar feel to Seinfeld. For the three young women and three young men, hanging out unannounced at the Central Perk coffee shop or at each other’s apartments was simply a way of life.
—-) Cheers, the TV show about a Boston bar not only enveloped every major themes of unscheduled community, they went to so far as to sing a song about having a hang-out place where, “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”
The main objection people have to unscheduled community is a lack of time, “I’m simply too busy to drop by unannounced at a friend’s house or I would feel overwhelmed if a friend came by my place unannounced” people say. And when I hear that objection I’m always puzzled and a central question forms in my mind; what are we all so busy doing?
Let’s call a spade a spade; the biggest time waster in our lives is not running important errands or mopping the kitchen….it’s the Television. The average American watches TV for an average of 34 hours a week <NY TIMES> and even though I’m not very good at math, from my calculations that is roughly 5 hours per day.
And while I’m not about to throw stones at anyone for watching the latest episodes of Elementary or House of Cards, can we at least be honest; when we are feeling lonely or starved for community the make believe television characters that we are watching on TV simply don’t work as well as real life people sitting with us.
Community and friendships take time. It’s a lot easier to turn the TV on every day and spend five hours in front of it because the TV doesn’t require that we patiently listen to it or interact with it the way being with a real live person entails back-and-forth conversation.
I could be totally wrong but I suspect it’s not ‘busyness’ that prevents us from reorganizing our lives around the idea of unscheduled community; I believe its fear. We’ve been conditioned to live a certain way; the Western way. But that is what my blog is all about; challenging the predetermined notions that we’ve all grown up with, questioning the things that we are doing and that other societies are not doing.
If we don’t question what we are being spoon fed from the television, the media, the government, and all those other influences in our culture; then perhaps we will wake up one day and realize that it was poison on that spoon which we have been swallowing our whole lives.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
I will be in Chicago this weekend! Check my homepage for dates and locations. I’d love to have coffee with you! Upcoming locations included Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston, and more!
Categories: Culture & Society