When I was in my early 20s, I used to go to church because I knew exactly what would happen. The rituals would be the same. We’d recite the same things. People would be nice to me. The only small risk was the peace-be-with-you moment, where you had to shake hands with people around you. Always, that first moment, And now let us share a sign of Christ’s peace, my stomach did a flip-flop, as everyone found their first peace partners, a musical chairs of handshakes. Ironic, yes? You could be the loneliest person in the world for that moment, with handshakes rippling through the crowd around — you turn left and then right, waiting, and the murmurs of the crowd morph and blend, peace, peace, peace. Then the powder-smelling woman to your right turns her head and extends her hand, her skin is the warmth of new-baked bread, she flashes you a lipsticked smile and your task is done. You have closed the loop, you are back in the known river and will be carried along with the others.
Over the weekend I went to a workshop called Time Management for Artists. There was a little goal-setting exercise, where you were supposed to plot how your short-term and medium-term goals would add up to your long-term goals. And I sat there, in this (admittedly, free) workshop, boggled by the idea. All around me people began scribbling, brainstorming their goals and filling in the boxes on the worksheet. And that familar feeling welled up; of slipping into that wild moment, the still point in a sea of choreographed motion, the burbling peace, peace, peace blending into the unintelligible rushing of water over rock.