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Last week I was invited to join a Facebook group celebrating my 11th grade English teacher and his classes.  He was that great, fun teacher, letting us write quotes on the walls and sit on an old couch.  He introduced me to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Pat Conroy, and to Toni Morrison, who helped me fall completely in love with words and language.  He also gave us vocabulary, and lots of it.  I still have the stacks of index cards, cataloging words that I’m pretty sure live only to be used on the SAT and in The New Yorker.  The invitation’s timing was a fun coincidence, because I’d just been remembering all that as I considered naming this blog.  I really wanted it to be “Searching for Propinquity”.

propinquity (n.) – proximity; nearness in space and time

I’ve always loved that definition, the picture it gives, the idea it represents:  being close to something in multiple dimensions.  Sadly I think the word itself is just a little lacking in finesse and a little too much for what we’re doing here.  For a while a few years ago, I actually convinced myself that the word was propensity, which I promptly began using incorrectly and is something else entirely.  I also recently discovered through a little Googling that propinquity is a big concept in social psychology, including something called the propinquity effect.  It sounded kind of fascinating, and maybe it’s relevant, but in the end it was just too much to sort out for naming a blog. 

Still, it’s kind of what this is all about.  We want to be near, to be close, and even when we’ve found that closeness, it draws us in and we want other people to have it too.  I think often that’s why we’re so struck by writing or music or art.  I hear or read or see something and the distance between me and the creator disappears, because it’s explained me better than I can explain myself.  In that moment we’ve been seen, understood, and connected.  And then we want to share, post it, tweet it, pass it out – “look at this, listen; this is me. ” We see and feel and know, and want to know that someone else does, too.

It’s a tricky desire, this need for closeness, and it’s full of dangerous points that I still only navigate with moderate success (I’m remembering Relational Dialectics theory, but we’ll save that for another post, maybe after the one about why I’m having all these school flashbacks!).  

The point is, I think (and write) on these things a lot – relationships, connection – sometimes obsessively, because I know when we get them right, they’re amazing and worth all the effort.  If you get tired of hearing about it, or have it all figured out and can fill me in, let me know.  I’ll switch topics to being the father of a two-year-old girl, which makes all this seem easy.