Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Big C...

(I have to preface this with the warning that this is really a draft, so it may be incoherent in parts. I did try to proof it, so spelling should be OK.)

Commitment… Yeah, it’s a big word, and one lots of people run away from. I’ve been faced with several instances of commitment (or lack thereof) recently.

As some of you are aware, my ol’ faithful laptop went terminal recently. It was constantly crashing, the screen was flickering and flashing, it couldn’t handle the new programs I wanted to load, etc., etc. Now this is partly my fault, that things came to this pass. Back in February, the screen began flickering from time to time, but it would steady after a while. I did nothing about looking into a new laptop, figuring it had been a few loose wires and all was copacetic. But then it started up again in March, and rather than take warning, I pretended it could be fixed. I didn’t even start researching replacements. So when it finally gave out pretty much completely last week, I was faced with having to research and replace it in short order. I managed it, and I’m working now with a very nice new laptop…the screen is bigger and brighter now with amazing graphics, and faster access speeds and a whole gig of RAM and 120 gig of space on my hard drive. How will I ever use it all up? There are outlets on all sides for the mike and earbuds and thumb drives and an infrared port and even a remote control. The only thing I don’t have on this one, I think , is a built-in web cam…as my friend Brit Boy reminded me the other day. Which is probably just as well, to be honest, pace Brit Boy. The number of people who would actually want to watch me writing a sermon or answering email has to be vanishingly small. And yes, I'm very aware there are other activities that can be viewed on webcams...the number of people who would be interested in that on my webcam is even smaller than the number who would want to watch me write sermons. Anyway, the new machine is great. I wish I had bought it three months ago.

I was over-committed to my old computer. I was so comfortable with where everything was, and how the programs worked, and I was used to the cranky “e” key (although my email and instant-message correspondents might disagree with that), that I didn’t even notice all the other issues. So…time for a new commitment. Yes, I’m spending way more time than I really have re-arranging things, trying to find my files and programs that I transferred, and so on…but I am already finding how much easier life is with a functional—a really functional—computer.

Commitment in the church is another issue. Sometimes our members get over-committed—they try to do everything that they see needs doing, and their plate gets piled way too high, and they end up burning out and leaving, or just tossing all the projects on the pastor’s desk, saying they need a break and they’re going to just sit in the pews for a while. On the other hand, there are folks who come week after week to church, without doing anything else. I haven’t seen this latter issue in my current congregation, I hasten to add—but I have seen it elsewhere.

And then I think about relationships (“We all want ‘em. We all got ‘em. What are we gonna do with ‘em?” as Jimmy Buffet says). Obviously, different levels of relationship require different levels of commitment. Your life partner, to whom you have—yes, made a commitment—clearly is at a different level of importance than the salesperson on the telephone. But sometimes things get trickier…the budding relationship that one person wants to make more intimate earlier than the other person does…the brief but intense relationship that is hard to explain to others, but is nonetheless very real to the two of you…the friendship of many years that is fading, but that nonetheless you feel tied to…the family relationships that you couldn’t imagine living without…all of them have varying levels of commitment.

The one thing all these have in common, though, is reciprocity (well, except for the laptop issue; I don’t think my laptop had any commitment to me). It’s very difficult to be committed to someone who is not committed to you. To always be the friend who drops everything and rushes to the side of a friend in crisis, to give up whole weekends to church work without acknowledgment, to feel a deeper (or lesser) commitment to someone than the other person feels to you, to be told by someone that they are committed to you, but not to see it in practice…there’s a lack of reciprocity here.

I don’t know what the answer to any of this is…I’m just musing here.

Perhaps it’s a matter of being sure you mean it when you make a commitment to someone or something, being slow to make that commitment until you are sure…and being able to relinquish it if the other party is not, in fact, as committed to the relationship or project as you are. To be able to let go when you need to of a relationship, a commitment. But to be careful about making those commitments, because it can be very difficult to let go of them—computers, church, or relationships.

1 comment:

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

These are interesting musings to me, RP, particularly since I think I am preparing to enter that phase of life called "middle age crazy". Thinking about my commitment to my churches, the commitment of the congregants to their churches, my relationship commitment and so forth.

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...