Well.. that’s the thought I had mid-stride as I was dancing across the floor at the club I’ve gone to for the past 12 years at least once a week.
Of course–I’m an atheist–and I don’t go to any “real” church anymore. In addition, I realize that the category of a “church” is actually 100% appropriate in terms of the associated meanings it brings… but still, the feeling does seem right.
And here’s what I mean:
1. What I was expressing was a feeling about my experiences at the club. This feeling represented what a person involved in a real Church would feel as they watched their particular community wither away over time. Now–I’m not normally one who puts all that much stock in my own feelings–nor am I a person who actually feels things all that often–at least not initially… but rather, I’m someone who thinks things and then realizes his feelings later. In any case, I’ve observed and thought about the changes that have been going on with relation to my normal Saturday night activities for many years. Thus, I suppose, I don’t really need to think about such things all that much anymore. I’ve watched the patterns–which I’ll elaborate more upon below–and know all about them, but it takes time for my inner core to generate and/or process my feelings about the same things.
But I finally have, and I can feel the dying. It is sad, but not unexpected.
2. Quick point–I wouldn’t have even thought of this expression if I hadn’t read (well, reread..) Neal Stephenson’s latest book, Anathem, and remembered the scene where one of the main characters related how his Church (which actually resembles current fundamentalist churches in our Cosmic Narrative–but with a big twist..) was dying–being consumed by competing faiths that offered simpler answers to complex questions and who preferred absolute certainty to the reality of ambiguity. That moment, in that story, struck me because it conveyed a sense of knowing sadness that was honest, all at once, on numerous and different levels. It was the antithesis and opposite of the denial that is all too common in most humans…
3. The reality of my thinking about my club/church is the following:
a) This club has been where I have met and accumulated the vast majority of acquaintances and friends that I have garnered here in Madison over the past 12 years. It is where I met my best friend/best half/life-partner/wife as she decided to dance with me because she initially assumed that I was gay and therefore not-dangerous (oh the surprise later at how dangerous I was!!!). It is where I also met most of my friends–individuals, who, back then shared something in common with me in that we felt comfortable in this place at those times. Furthermore, it is where I/we have continued to meet ever new people–some of whom became close friends and others who moved along to chart different paths. Overall, it was the place where the majority of my social life was built and fleshed out…
b) The location/setting was also important in that it originally embodied the subculture/culture that I had always found most welcoming and comfortable–and that was namely the goth/industrial community. While I have long since lost my naivete that this group is obviously superior to the more mainstream pop culture in terms of the quality of people–I would, nevertheless, argue that empirically any group that suffers real disdain/oppression tends to have a slightly lower quantity/quotient of assholish/dickishness, if only because such pain/suffering can create depth in people–and back then, being a part of this group was far less socially acceptable than today–and thus the people within tended to have a bit more depth than they otherwise would. This didn’t mean there weren’t total fucktards within the community–oh, they certainly existed–but they were not as omnipresent as I’ve experienced elsewhere..
So what has happened??? Well–life moves on. Stories are products of their environment, and the environment is always in flux.. it evolves.. it (generally) improves (at least in my lifetime..).. and the aspects of reality that supported the growth of one kind of community begin to fade away over time. With the removal of these supports, people that once found the community to be an important part of their lives, no longer see the necessity of it. They often describe this process as outgrowing this situation.. or moving on with their lives.. and that is part of their own story..of their particular narrative…but it isn’t part of mine..
In addition–with each passing year, the new crop of possible replacements for departing community members come from a different place. They grew up in a world that was different.. in a narrative where meaning came from very different places.
To make it concrete–those individuals of my generation remember the time before computers or vcr’s or millions of channels. They can remember a time when cartoons only existed in the movie theatre, on saturday morning, or from 3:00-5:00 daily. They probably remember a time when the possibility of nuclear holocaust was not about a terrorist possessing one bomb–but of a nation supposedly plotting to annihilate all of humanity. This was the world of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s when my consciousness became aware of the world outside of my skull.
It is a different world than that of the 90’s and 00’s…
Now–I’m not trying to say that the older world is better–even if it is a more comfortable world for me–but I am saying that it was a world where goth/industrial found its origins–and where the themes and undercurrents of this community had a certain resonance. The further we move away from that world–the less resonance these themes possess for others–and thus, the less reason for people to value those themes and that culture. The less reason for people to notice if this culture fades away..
My Church is dying. This is a normal process. I know this.
I also know that part of me doesn’t really find this problematic. I try not to be a snob/elitist/exclusive about such things… and I also know that the main reason that I have always held to this community is that it gave me an opportunity to dance… and that this activity has–more than anything else–been what I’ve found essential about going to this place.. about being part of this community… Perhaps if I could not dance–this wouldn’t matter at all.. or perhaps I merely need to wait a bit more and I will also abandon my church..
.. but as long as I can enjoy the rhythm of the heat, I will not lose my faith.. even if I am the last believer of a world that has long since been forgotten..