As I left the print shop that sits two streets over from my house, I saw the guy who does my taxes heading into his office, and then thought about my eye doctor (3/4 block south, 1/2 block west) where my new contacts are waiting for me.
At this point, if Courtney and I moved 5 blocks from our current apartment, it would feel like an entirely different world. Our life is organized primarily by geographical imminence, things being physically close. Like if I were really good golfer with a clear shot, I could tee off from our back yard and hit my office, my eye doctor, my church, my accountant, the coffee shop I haunt frequently, plus 5 really good taco joints. Not to mention several friends, who would either be angry or impressed that I could strike the ball (and their left temple) with such accuracy.
The whole experiment has taught me that our culture has forgotten how significant geographical distance, as opposed to how much time it takes to get somewhere, is. Even within the home (the size of which has tripled even as people have less children), the amount of space we allow ourselves affects how close we are. When people funneled into the same spaces during mundane tasks, small conversations happen that sometimes lead to bigger things, I submit the proverbial work water cooler conversation as evidence. I even suspect the fact that Courtney and I share a single sink in a small bathroom has shaped our relationship. Being "with someone" when there is no specific agenda—dinner plans, work project, religious gathering—is a form of being with that we rarely encounter, unless of course you start to shape life around physical closeness.
Christmas is about physical closeness. Thanksgiving is far enough in the past that families have forgotten the experience and plan yet another meal together. (By the end of the day they have not only remembered but relived the former tragedy of a meal and decide its best to put off another one until the following November when father's headache has subsided). Churches do this crazy thing where they make you see the people you attend with on a day other than Sunday morning. And often the season inspires people (who have also forgotten about the last get together) to spend hundreds of dollars and several hours on a flying proximity enhancer that also happens to carry banshee children. It's as if for a weekend someone in the heart of the Western world flips a giant switch that turns on a great relational magnet that forces us to reduce the typical physical space between us.
It is sad that this magnet is typically only plugged into the end of a string of Christmas lights.
Cue the 1950's Christmas music piano.
Because isn't that what Christmas is ALL about? Well, no. It is about a great many things. But one of the things that it is about is closeness, the great inconvenience and pain of deity being "with us". Because for all of the bumping into each other, fumbling over each other, getting in each others way—no technology can replace the infinite nuance of being physically with those you deeply care about.