When I was a kid, I was fascinated by movie stars. I don't mean celebrities, the sorts of people that we say are "famous for being famous." I was entranced with the old stars of black-and-white movie days. Katharine Hepburn. Humphrey Bogart. Jimmy Stewart. I had their pictures and movie posters on my walls. They were icons of a sort -- remote, above all the messiness of life. At least that was the image that the old "studio-system" helped them to project. It reeled (pun intended) people like me into the movie house.
My experience was even more dramatic, because by the time I was watching those movies, commercial-interrupted (no VCRs in those days, let alone Netflix streaming), sitting on the living room couch on a Saturday afternoon, they were a slice of nostalgia as well -- the good old days that I could imagine, even if I couldn't turn back the clock and go and live there.
Unfortunately, it was all artifice, a building whose foundation was deception. And I don't mean the legitimate make-believe of the world of movies.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey spent most of their lives in an adulterous affair. Rock Hudson had to pretend he was straight. When the truth was in the spotlight, it was used to punish and to shame, like when Ingrid Bergman's career was nearly ended because of her affair and subsequent pregnancy.
Today, everyone seems to live in the spotlight. "Reality stars," ordinary people who end up (allegedly) baring their souls on national television, are the new model of fame. Their stories are just as much a sham.
The rest of us have our Facebook profiles. We dish up carefully curated versions of our lives. Great party! Beautiful family! Funny story! Fabulous vacation!
The internet is a funny place. It's a democratic free-for-all and a minefield of advertisements, viruses, and pornography. It's a place where people can share their most virulent opinions with shameless anonymity (ever read an open comments section on a popular web-site?) and a place where we can, with a few key strokes, find accurate answers to virtually any question that pops into our heads.
I think, at its best, the internet can be a place where community -- real community -- can unexpectedly blossom. It's like the plants that stubbornly push their way up through the cracks in the pavement, or, maybe better still, like the suburban trees that crack the concrete sidewalks.
People want to connect. People want to know and be known. People want to feel safe and free to be who they are and to know that they are loved just like that. No design. No artifice. Just you and me and genuine relationship.
When that happens, I believe that something blossoms, something that the world needs more of. That's when we know what's true.
I was talking with my daughter this morning about truth -- not the kind that says, "I'm right and you're wrong." We were talking about what makes something funny. I said that things strike us as funny when we recognize that they are true. We don't have to think about it. There's a resonance. Our bodies, our hearts -- our souls -- just know.
It's like meeting someone and feeling like you've always known them. You have.
Friends, that's what I want this place to be, a place where we connect. I want to tell the truth not so you'll know me, but so you'll know yourself, and we'll know each other. We resonate. That resonance is the truest truth there is.
Once we're living the truth, that truth, we can't help but live it in love -- not the sappy, rom-com sort of love, but the real deal, the kind that carries us through all the suffering and the joy that life inevitably dishes up.
What I really want us to create together is a community. I want us to clear the ground and make space in the world for more roots to spread and push up through the concrete and blossom into acts of love.
Are you in? Start telling your stories. Tell them imperfectly, but tell the truth. Tell about how you tried and failed and tried again. Tell about how you succeeded beyond your wildest hopes. Tell about how somebody else helped you along the way and how you helped somebody else. Tell about what was funny or hard or unexpected or incomprehensible. Tell about the times when hope, like those roots, started pushing through the concrete.
Tell how you are living the truth in love. I know you have them, lots of them. Let's see what happens. Post your stories on our Facebook page. Send them to me, and I'll help you edit them. Spread the word.