So what is it about human nature that we feel a need to be close to other people? I’m not talking about relationships, communication, verbal interaction – I’m talking about the physical presence of having someone, ANYONE, around you?
I’m an independent software consultant/developer and do 90% of my work out of my home. My other offices away from home tend to be public libraries, coffee shops, and bookstores. One would tend to assume that my typical day is quite lonely – me lost in my logical world listening to JS Bach and New Age music floating on an island inside my head. The truth is that I cannot get away from my fellow man. I enjoy company as much as the next guy, but something that is consistent is the fact that I can never be too far from someone wanting to rub auras with me.
Case in point – there are several rectangular tables with 6 chairs around them at the public library. Through some conspiratorial self-preservation glitch in my brain, I have to be facing a door or the inside of the room. I never have my back to anyone. With that in mind, I find an outside table in the corner and set up. Invariably, which is again the case today, I get a guy sitting one chair away on my same side of the table. No one is sitting at any of the other tables. The only thing that keeps this older gentleman (and now his wife sat down opposite him) from sitting on my lap or directly next to me is my computer bag that is taking up a seat. I’m not performing Top Secret coding, plotting to take over the world, or doing my taxes on my laptop, but having someone even occasionally glance at my screen makes me feel violated.
Another story – sitting at a Barnes & Noble working away with two laptops out (yeah – I’m that good, or that inefficient). The place is packed. Elderly American of African descent taps me on the shoulder (quite startling when reaching the crescendo of “Bolero” in my earbuds) and asks if I wouldn’t mind driving her down to a church on Tibbs near Speedway. I pull my headphones off, look around at everyone else – working away with no distraction. Then I start looking for the cameras because I’m sure I’m now on an episode of “What Would You Do?” or “Candid Camera”. The love of Christ within me says I should probably drive her downtown, but the procrastinator in me that knows I’ve put off this work two days and am on borrowed time puts his foot down.
How many times have you gone to the movies after a flick has been out for a few weeks and you're one of the last of your friends to see it? There are six people in the entire theater and just as the lights are dimming and you think you have five rows to yourself, one or more people come in and sit in the seats directly around you. Happens more than you care to guess, doesn't it?
The urge to be close to someone in these experiences is not as creepy as an empty bathroom with 10 urinals and the guy stands next to you….but it causes me to think about loneliness and a sense of belonging, even with those we don’t know. We share a wink of time on a big rock hurtling through space, so every moment should be considered special. I’m amazed at how often Jesus was interrupted during his ministry. Without the records of the times he was interrupted, we not only miss a large number of miracles, but the thrust of the message that life is about interruptions.
It’s about squeezing in close.
It’s enough to be in the same room together after five decades of marriage.
Finding another English speaking person in a foreign land.
Holding someone’s hand in a hospital.
As annoying and inconvenient as these interruptions are, our attitudes should be less like the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, and more like The Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close to You”.