Roommates are very important to me. I need people who regularly impinge upon my life, who inconvenience me in unexpected ways on a daily basis. I don’t mean “inconvenience” in a purely negative way. Inconvenience evidences community. The emotional roommate that comes into your room randomly to talk, the last-minute airport ride, the cereal that’s constantly on the kitchen floor and occasionally on the floor in the other areas of the house… These all remind me that I exist among others and that I am called to love them.
I constantly face choices: rebuke, correct, serve, love, ignore? Which and when and how? And the time for decision always comes with only a moment’s notice. This is the real stuff of life. The choice: affirm the good existence of the other, or act as if he does not exist and that I am free of responsibilities attendant to that existence? Existence is always accompanied by responsibility, and by calling, most of all the call to love.
I know some who write on and on about the importance–-the necessity–-of community. Ironically, many of these people have time for writing largely because they are divorced from the responsibilities of actual communities (you should always be skeptical of people who have time to write…).
And that’s why their writing is often abstract. People who really practice community know that it frequently doesn’t come down to a stated shared vision, but to the question of what to do about the damn cereal you keep finding on the kitchen floor. Do you clean it up? Do you leave it there? Do you call out your roommate for his barbaric eating habits? Do you set up a chore chart for the house?
I love and hate the cereal on the kitchen floor. I hate it because it’s a dry crispy crumbly revolt against my desire for a clean kitchen. I love it because it means I share a home.
And in the end I think this is the kind of stuff saints are made of (and the stuff that shows me I’m not one of them): what we do with the damn–or, I suppose, blessed–cereal. Not what we do with this or that theological statement or cultural issue or presidential election. Those things are important, but I just don’t think those things are as constitutive of one’s identity as what one does with the
damn blessed cereal. Well, maybe the theological statements are, if only because they give answers to the question of what to do about the damn blessed cereal.
What to do with it, then?