A *culture is not optional project
Huss Stories: David Stewart
(David helping with our first Underground Supper Club.)
I have lived in Three Rivers for close to ten years. Somewhere in that timeline, Three Rivers changed from being “someplace I lived for now” to “someplace I’m enjoying living and would like to remain in.” There weren’t any Hallmark moments to commemorate this transition from temporary to semi-permanent, but at some point I started feeling like I belonged. As nice as this was, it also brought with it some changes. I began to wonder what I could do in Three Rivers to contribute in a meaningful way. I had worked at the local library for some time, and that was certainly a contribution in its own way, but I had a need within me to do something more. I don’t think the search for purpose is something that truly ever fades, and as such my own journey is far from over, but a couple of years ago, I happened to meet some folks on their own journeys. It didn’t take long for me to realize that we were walking similar paths, if in different rhythm, and I’ve been walking with them ever since.
“The mission of *culture is not optional is to model and encourage creative communities, rooted in the love of Christ, in Three Rivers and beyond.” If I’m honest, this is not something that would have drawn me to the folks of *cino had I read it out of context. The message is very relevant to what *cino is, but I am not a religious man. Talk of Christ is talk I steer clear of. This is not to say that there are not tenets derived from the life of Jesus that I can’t find wisdom and comfort in, but faith has never been something I could understand. In fact, this has been a problem for me in my own search for purpose because it seems like wherever I look, I see only faith-based organizations attempting to make a difference in the world. Thankfully, at least one of them has been able to integrate an outsider into its ranks without burying him under a mountain of dogma.
It was not a seamless process. It wasn’t until I started seeing what *cino was doing in Three Rivers (and beyond!) before I found the desire to cooperate with this organization. The barrier of faith between secular and sacred is often hard to cross, but it can be crossed, by either side. Whether Christian or Buddhist or humanist, there is a simple belief that anyone with red blood flowing through their veins can and should realize: we are all in this together. Life is not an ego-centric experience. We may be able to survive in a cabin, alone in the woods, but I’m not sure that’s the kind of life that a human being should strive for. We deserve more.
And so we cook food together and we sit down and eat it, often using the very same ingredients we’ve dug out of the earth mere hours ago. We read books and poetry and absorb stories about strange flying Doctors, and we talk about them. We throw orange balls into hoops and marry the jagged edges of a jigsaw puzzle together. We renovate a building in the hopes that it can be something strong and lasting and integral to this city. We bring communities into that space and show them that people of different backgrounds and different skin tones and different beliefs can exist and find joy in one another; that differences, while relevant, are never different enough to deny our basic humanity. The ‘We’ of it all is the center, and it doesn’t matter what you believe or put your faith in as long as you can accept and understand that simple principle. That is what *cino has meant for me, and what I hope it comes to stand for in this little hamlet of Three Rivers.