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A Square Peg

Humans are human because they are conscious of living within a community. When the sense of fellowship is lost humanity is lost.

Giambattista Vico

Symmetry works for me. Not a Jeffersonian kind of decorating symmetry where the left side of your house matches the right. But a symmetry of feeling. It’s almost a smell. A color.

I felt that this week. I haven’t felt that symmetry in awhile — after all the upheaval we’ve endured. I found Monkey Joes — that white-noise-and-air-filled indoor playground over on the Motor Mile. Wednesdays are half-price. The food looks lousy. The clerks seem numb. The TV is always on the Food network which only makes the food look lousier. They have massage chairs you have pay to be nice to you. Wi-fi is free though.

The boys play hard there. Happily jumping and sliding and pretending. If you’re ever there, my children are the ones with the pool-noodle swords. They are always the children with the swords. How can a warrior — even a wee warrior — leave home without his sword?

And I read. I read so much the last two visits that I actually feel like a scholar again. I have about 50 pages of notes on that reading and an outline floating around my head for another book. It’s been bliss.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yujw1Shc-KI[/youtube]

I know that I am a bit of misfit. I am the Square Peg who never fits in the round hole. And I’ve decided that despite what my previous world told me (that such oddity is probably the result of sin), this is how God made me. I’m supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to not fit. I have the gift not of making people comfortable (hospitality) but of making people uncomfortable. I’m a gadfly.

I sat at the Monkey Joes’ desk right near the action. I scattered my books across the top, got out my colored pens, and my legal pad. I had overstuffed my purse with random thoughts scrawled on post-its. And even though I was periodically interrupted by a runny nose or a lost Pooh hat, I read the whole time!

It felt just like my early months at Indiana University. I was not accepted into their Ph.D. program because my recommendation letters were “a little strange” (they were!) and because I was from an unaccredited school. While Grant was actually in a program, I was just a “continuing non-degree student” — neither fish nor fowl. Another Square Peg.

I didn’t have a study space on campus to call my own back then, so I’d sit in the Union in that beautiful limestone alcove that overlooked the Rhetorical Studies building. I had my articles and stacks of books in my overstuffed leather bag, my colored pens, and my legal pad. And I was occasionally interrupted by a friendly prof or classmate. It was bliss. Because I was doing what I knew I was plumbed to do. Nobody else knew it just yet though.

Now that I’m an “independent scholar” — another liminal fishy-fowl — it feels pretty much like it did then. Stealing moments to read and compare. Finding myself in my own head while my dearest examples of humanity spin and leap around me. This feels familiar. And very, very good.

So my idea is this: Even while Gen-X and Gen-Y fundamentalists reject the term “fundamentalism” qua fundamentalism, the separatist rhetorical forms persist in conservative Evangelicalism. Having reified the American ideal of individualism into a doctrine, these sectarians have shattered any sense of community in conservative Evangelicalism. They attempt to rebuild a notion of the community with their discourses of “biblical” living in order to woo and contain, but these attempts simply mask the egocentric and splintering rhetorical forms. They have become too individualistic to be fully human.

Or something like that. Does that irritate you? . . . Good. πŸ˜‰

If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me.

Socrates, The Gadfly

12 thoughts on “A Square Peg

  1. Very cool, Camille! I guess I know where you’ll be on Wednesdays for a while. πŸ™‚

    Monkey Joe’s food… here’s what annoys me. They put all the junky stuff right at eye level. Evil, pure evil. πŸ˜‰ And you can’t bring food in. We have another jumping place that is smaller, Jumpin’ Beans, where you can bring in your own food (other than Pizza and coffee, which they sell) and the clerks are much nicer. But Monkey Joes does have more “stuff.”

    I know, not really the point of your post, but I spend a lot of time at those sorts of places. πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m so glad that you’ve found a place where you can be a scholar! (The fact that it is a very un-scholarly kind of place just makes it cooler, IMO.)

    Your role as gadfly is important. More important than most people will acknowledge. I can’t wait to read the book. πŸ˜‰

  3. Like you, I feel sometimes as if I don’t fit in most places. My thoughts are nowhere near as deep as yours (sometimes they’re very shallow πŸ™‚ ), but I tend to see things a bit differently than most folks. I think the square pegs keep the round ones from getting too complacent.

  4. Hi Camille.

    If you want a theological explanation for the separatism you came from, take a look at Calvin’s Against the Anabaptists and Against the Libertines, especially the chapter on the Anabaptist ban.

  5. You make me think, Camille:) I am sure you have figured out I don’t always agree, but it is good to have to think things through.

  6. Hi Camille! Loved the post… inspired me to write a blog entry in which I quoted you. http://dthatcher.blogspot.com/2009/02/individualism-and-religious-right.html
    I too feel like a square peg. I sense the same calling. God has not opened the doors for me to attend college, so I am seen by the world as uneducated and low-skill. But I know what graces God has bestowed upon me. He has taken care of me and my family. I know He will be there if everything else falls apart.
    The burning question of late for me has been concerning my purpose. Perhaps I have looked too much to existing organizations and structures for this. Truly perhaps God has prepared “square pegs” such as you and I for such times as these, in which all the world is upside down.
    I see a great need for conservatives to uncouple from the political right, especially Republicans. We need to get back to our roots in Christ. We will not survive on rugged individualism, we will only survive if we seek another’s well-being. Such “socialist” tendencies annoy the right-wing and that is why we must repudiate our affiliations with them. Community must morph from “what is in it for me” to “what can I be for others?” People need to stop asking if churches have programs for their kids and instead ask if they can be a blessing to someone else.

  7. What about we Gen-X and Gen-Y folk who have wormed our way into more tradition and structure? We who have found our places under the hierarchies of the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican churches? Or even the Presbyterians, or any church, really, that holds seriously to ecclesiastical authority? Are we the exception to this observation, or part of it?

    Just musing.

  8. “They have become too individualistic to be fully human.”

    I love it. πŸ™‚ Sign me up for the first reading by the author!

  9. Oh wow, I am such the square peg! Me and my sister both. My youngest sister is not so much, but….

    Anyways, I occassionally meet people who “get” me, but for the most part I am left to converse with myself about all of these thoughts that I have.

    πŸ™‚

    Jamie

  10. Hi, square peg here. Just wanted to respond to your last paragraph:

    Having reified the American ideal of individualism into a doctrine, these sectarians have shattered any sense of community in conservative Evangelicalism. They attempt to rebuild a notion of the community with their discourses of β€œbiblical” living in order to woo and contain, but these attempts simply mask the egocentric and splintering rhetorical forms. They have become too individualistic to be fully human.

    You’re right on here. It’s one of the many reasons I no longer claim to be a conservative. To me, the passions of conservatism simply don’t ring true with life under God (i.e., humility), the essence of believing relationships (i.e., love) and the way things were meant to be (i.e., community – among other things). I spent too many years trying to figure out how government-hating, us/them “legislated” relationships and radical individualism really were Christ-following. It’s much simpler now being a political “other” rather than a conflicted conservative.

    Best wishes on your project!

  11. Hmm…well, I was trying to *quote* your last paragraph, but the html monster must have eaten it. Ah well.

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