It’s Week Five of reading L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, and I find myself engaged in understanding detachment.
“I heard it through a friend,” Barkat writes. “Someone had said of me, ‘She seems closed in her spirit.’ This was news. I always considered myself to be a fairly open person, thankful for life and its gifts. Still, this seemed to coincide with the cautious observation of another friend, ‘You’re kind of detached.’”
Ah, detachment. Oh, boy.
“Detached” is an attribute – or a description – often applied to me. My wife will not say I’m detached, but she will say “You’re not listening” or “You’re not engaged” or – most dreaded of all – “Tell me what I just said.”
To be honest, detachment is part of who I am, at least part of who I am at least part of the time.
I “learned” detachment in two ways in college journalism. First, it was the idea of objectivity, of trying to be objective and balanced and fair, a modernist concept that is no longer practiced in the journalism of a post-modern society. You were supposed to do your job with some sense of detachment, or you would not be able to do your job properly.
Second, I learned detachment sitting in the newsroom of the college newspaper, first as a copy editor and then as a managing editor. I had to detach myself from the noise and sound around me so that I could focus on writing and editing.
I never unlearned this second kind of detachment. I can block out thunderstorms and fire engine sirens if I need to focus on something.
My family refers to this as “Dad’s checked out.”
What happens – and is hard to explain – is that my mind tends to be constantly “on.” It’s on in the sense of making connections, seeing commonalities in things that seem very different, pulling out themes, seeing similar situations separated by years or even decades, and then playing all of this back, sometimes in a very different context.
What I’m describing, of course, is the mind of a writer. I don’t know if all writers do this, but there is some level of apparent detachment that masks an almost total engagement. It seems, and perhaps is, a contradiction, to be detached and engaged simultaneously. But that’s what happens.
Lament by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.