Perhaps some of you like Sr. Wantabee grew up, can we say survived, high school watching Captain Kirk and his side kick Dr. Spock on the spaceship Enterprise, “going where no man has ever gone before.” All sorts of lifeforms were found on other planets in distant galaxies, lives based on nitrogen, lives based on…. There was always some terrible cross cultural communication problem but our heroes lived to explore again. The newer versions of the old favorite have dealt with racism and political powers differently but always, the adventure.
This weekend Sr. Wantabee went to downtown Chicago, about a mile from Lake Michigan to a retreat center. Wanting to “feel the adventure” she rode the underground with her sidekick, walked to the lake with the masses of people, got coffee at a little alcove, and retreated with a group of sisters. She marveled at the mass of people, mostly younger than she, the mass of cars driving much more aggressively than she, and house built right on top of each other more closely than hers. It all felt rather strange, like being on a different planet.
Upon returning home and re-entering her own space she went through withdrawal or reverse culture shock. Then she remembered going to Uganda in 1998. It seemed so different from Kenya from whence she came. Was it the war ravaged buildings line with plastic tables with Coca Cola umbrellas and white plastic chairs? Was it the people using bicycles as taxis with passengers perched on the back? Was it the obvious Scandanavian influence seen on the building signs? It was not until she returned to Kenya and realized that for every Ugandan she saw, there was 100 or 1000 Kenyans – in buildings, on buses, in cars. Kenya was full of people and Uganda was ravaged by war and AIDS. THAT was the feeling returning home. For every person she saw on Monday, she had seen 100 in Chicago on Sunday. How the people in Chicago handle space is so different. There was no room for everyone to have a car or a yard. One beautiful white Victorian style house had a black iron gate around it with a hedge of flowers next to the porch, six inches of grass, a stone side walk, six inches of grass and the gate. Each space was maximized and personalized.
Sr. Wantabee pondered. How do people living in such busy, crowded spaces make spiritual space for their souls to grow? Perhaps “space” is the final frontier.