My mother gave a unique gift to my son for a while back – several boxed episodes of two of my favorite TV shows growing up – The Waltons and Mork & Mindy.
I had my tonsils removed not too long ago and my ability to interact with my son during the two weeks that followed was handicapped. Because I was largely bed-bound, and because it hurt to talk, on the days that I had him, we cracked open the box of Mork & Mindy dvds and watched 2 of the 4 discs together – and, HE LOVED IT!!
He not only loved spending unique cuddle time with his old man (he’s not used to seeing me under the weather or physically challenged), but he also loved those shows! That show was filmed in Boulder, CO where we live and Andrew and I enjoy spotting various places and scenes around town that we recognize. How cool is that?! I was 10 years old in 1978 when that show first aired and I was enamored with Robin William’s wild and zany character “Mork from Ork”. I think I even had a Mork from Ork lunch box (yeah, I was one of the cool kids… not).
Well, Andrew is 9 and much smarter than I was at his age and he’s totally getting the humor. He’s seen enough of life to know how things are “supposed to be” in social interactions and he realizes the folly of a grown man completely misunderstanding people and doing unusual, clownish, things with everyday objects. Indeed, my mother has created a monster. Andrew now loves going around saying “Na noo Na noo!”, “Shazbot!”, and “I bought my first car 3 bleems ago!”; attempting to shake people’s hands with the Orkan split finger handshake, sitting on chairs with his head on the cushion and his butt in the air, and trying to sleep by hanging upside down off the side of the bed!
In season one of that show, Mork befriends a little African American boy named Eugene who takes violin lessons at Mindy’s father’s music store. Something’s dawned on me that I failed to perceive as a kid. Mork and that black kid got along perfectly without any confusion or misunderstanding. Why? Well, I think it’s because both of those characters are fellow aliens. Mork is from Ork and Eugene is a black kid in uberly white Boulder, CO. There is hardly any racial diversity in Boulder today – and there was even less in 1978.
Whenever the two of them ran into each other in any of the episodes, they greeted each other with an extended, jivey high five handshake, complete with snaps, pops, and fist and hip bumps. As I see it, they created their own insider ritual to help them deal with being strangers among strange people.
In a way, we all experience that feeling of alienation, peculiarity, oddness, freakishness, and not quite fitting in with everyone else at some points in our lives. Can I get an Amen?
I know I have. Being a skinny, scrawny kid in a culture that values males being big (esp. in the Mid-west) or muscular (though big would do); having parents who were nerdy college professors – and hence, I was a nerd; a Boy Scout, and a band geek; largely being a non-drinker during high school; never actually inhaling marijuana; remaining a Christian after I turned 21 -when most of my fellow Gen-Xers shed the faith; being a virgin until I married at 27; being a liberal, anti-war and pro-gay rights pastor in mostly moderate or conservative churches over the years; being a pastor who got divorced; being a progressive pastor who is trying to date (when most of the women are either “spiritual but not religious” or conservative Christians); living in super healthy organic, raw foody Boulder and not filter my tap water (I even still have a special place in my heart for PopTarts, white bread, tuna casserole, and Jello – you can take the boy out of the mid-west, but you can’t take the midwest out of the boy); being a balding, almost, middle aged man who just had his tonsils removed (sort of like getting braces at this age) ….I may be a white male in a society where that puts me on top of the ladder, but yeah, I think I get it.
Like Mork, I find solace, solidarity, understanding, and fellowship by seeking out as many like-minded, kindred spirits as I can. I try to create rituals that allow us outsiders to feel like we’re insiders – albeit our own brand of insiders. Hosting house concerts, dancing with my fellow freaks at live music venues, going on cruiser bike rides, playing my trumpet outdoors in the park and jamming with folks, being active with a liberal/progressive Christian community… those are ways in which I replicate the jivey high-five – complete with snaps, pops and fist & hip bumps -that Mork and Eugene had going on. Personally, I think that’s a big part of what the sacrament of Holy Communion is all about
“a holy high five with God and each other”).
May you have such rituals and communities to make you feel as at home as possible – being a stranger in a strange land, being a resident alien.
Na noo Na noo!