St. John the Evangelist, Patron of Friendships

I first learned about WordPress from the blog of a former classmate. It was only a step from reading that blog to building my own after I spent a long time reading Fr. Z., Rorate Caeli, and some other conservative Catholic blogs.

As I spend more time on the internet and write in the blogosphere, I am coming to the realization that the world really is getting smaller. An acquaintance at my college has his own blog in which he is planning to write about events and news in the diocese. I have also virtually met many people through the internet that live in my local area.

When I was on livejournal many moons ago, most of my friends were local. I remember meeting one of them once at school. I was shocked when I saw how different she was from her online personality. She reminded me of a James Dean rebel without a cause on the internet, but the real person was a rather homely-looking girl from some small farming town in the middle of Washington. From her blog, I thought that she would be brash and loud. She was the exact opposite. Quiet, retiring, and mousy. Then again, people on the internet are not always who they seem to be.

Of course, I have made many real life friends through the intenret. A couple of years ago, I started reading the blog of another former classmate of mine. He was an extremely talented writer, who had studied in a similar Master’s program at a different school. He and I were very different, but we complemented each other. He was really into heavy metal and alternative rock. He was tattoed all over. He enjoyed drinking PBR.

For some months, he and I used to three times a week on the phone. Those conversations were a time when we would release our inner rage. I would tell him about the academic hoops that I was jumping throught at school and he would vent to me about his own frustrations after academia. We would talk about our professors and swap stories about our time at our undergraduate alma mater. Sometimes, we would talk politics or religion. Sometimes, we would just listen to each other drone. Whenever I called, however, I felt that he was like an older brother who could call me out on my blarney.

Our conversations lasted for several months. I remember his growing anger and frustration that his graduate degree was not worth anything in the real world. He felt betrayed by his professors. He was discouraged in what he was doing. The only thing that he could was to make contingency plan after contingency. Anything that would help him to get out of his situation. He even wrote a novel about his experiences here.

Last winter, I felt an urge to acquiesce to the academic machine. I knew and understood that I could no longer fight it. If I was ever going to become a teacher,  I would have to learn to love my profession. Continuing to act like James Dean would get me nowhere. Nobody would recommend me and I would probably have to get a job cleaning toilets or telemarketing. Neither of which is an appealing prospect to me, but which I would be willing to do to pay off my gargantuan loans.

When I ebgan to give in to the academic machine, I felt that my friend withdrew from me. Eventually, he stopped answering my calls. Although I continued to read his blog, I never commented. I always felt that it would be inappropriate for me to say something. I felt that I would make him angry and that he would lash out. After all, who was I to tell him that people are not what they seem?

Eventually, my friend disappeared altogether. I wrote him several meals and asked after him through a mutual friend. I never received any answers. The only things that I heard from the friend was that he was continuing down the same path that he had been on for the last few years. He was still writing novels and shelving them. He was still worshiping the trees. He was searching for himself and trying to make something out of his life. At least, something that was worthwhile and beautiful.

As with almost anything based on the internet, relationships are bound to grow stale and die. With the years, we eventually lose interest in reading about the tiny details in other people’s lives. Our visits to their blogs become few and far between. One day, we just eventually stop going and forget about them. We may still remember them and their friendship, but their blogs are mere fuzzy memories.

Throughout my time, I have met people that were searching for some meaning outside of themselves on the internet. Some of them blogged because they felt a desperate need to be heard. Others felt a need to indulge in a fantasy life that was completely false in the real world. Still others felt that others would listen to their pain sympathetically and understand their lives.

Every day, millions of lives intersect on the internet. Yours, mine, and those of people that we may never meet in this world. Yet through this wonderful and frightening world, we have been given an opportunity to start up a conversation about those things that are important. The things that mean the most to us. Whether it be our families, our friendships, our religious beliefs, or our search for meaning, it is those combined experiences that create the internet. Like a colossal tapestry woven by a Penelope, each one of us has contributed our thread. Each of our threads tells a story that is interwoven with those of others. We are all dependent upon each other and that is why we are ultimately here.

In the Bible, there is a great that is said about friendship. It is compared to gold or to oil that flows down the bear of Aaron. “Oh how sweet it is where brethren dwell in unity,” sings the Psalmist. How true that is ! As I sit at my desk and write to the vast void beyond myself, I feel a unity with my readers. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and where you may be going know that you are always welcome here. My doors are always open to welcome you with open arms and speak to you. Come and tell me your concerns, show me your piece of the quilt, and we will try and build a better world together for Our Lord.

Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!