An attorney at the firm asked me today if I'd found any groups in the area since moving here that I wanted to join. The Wife has done well in this regard, having found a Toastmasters group that she likes. I've not. I also got asked today in a phone call with my folks back in Tennessee what I'd been up to lately.
The answer was "more of the same," in essence. I find my work is pretty well consuming during the day, and my teaching activities keep me pretty busy in the evenings. With a new online class starting Tuesday, I'll have some early-morning teaching work in my future, too.
Of course, I do have hobbies -- writing this blog is a hobby. Writing generally is a hobby. I'm a news freak, so I obsessively read news websites and watch shows for current events and politics. And yes, there are days that the majority of my news consumption does come from watching the Daily Show. When properly motivated, or more often on the weekends, I cook nice meals, which is a very enjoyable thing to do as well as one that can produce scrumptious food. Every once in a great while, The Wife and I even try and build things; I have an incomplete project out in the garage for her right now. For pastimes, I can goof off with a computer game or play with the critters. (I would not call these things "hobbies.") So it's not that I lack for things to do; far from it.
And most weeks, I have dinner with friends from the firm, the newspaper, and the Zendo, followed by a half hour or so of meditation. There is fellowship there, and a few moments of peace and mental calm which seems to be quite helpful in a variety of ways that are difficult to quantify.
Last weekend, The Wife and I went house hunting. We also played Trivial Pursuit (I won, but she did quite well and could have beat me with better luck on the dice) and Scrabble (neck and neck, and she won in the end). We enjoyed these things enough that we bought more games and will go house hunting again in a couple of weeks. (Well, The Wife loves house hunting; I am indifferent to it but I like seeing her happy and I like spending time with her.)
It's just that this seems like it's about all I do. There's enough variety in these things that for day-to-day, week-to-week existence, I feel that I'm not stuck in any kind of a rut or that this list of activities is monotonous. But when asked questions about what's been going on in my life, it seems like there is a relative constancy of response. I'm working, I'm teaching, I'm writing, I'm cooking, I'm spending time with my wife and my pets. Which is, after all, pretty much what I did last week.
Now, I do miss our group back in Tennessee. It was a good mix of people, who were all friendly and smart and interesting. We had diverse enough interests that there was always something new, as well as enough common ground to have a communal identity. The fellowship counted for as much as the exchange of ideas. I would like it very much if there was a similar sort of humanist or rationalist group here in the Antelope Valley, but I've seen no evidence of one yet. Nor have I seen evidence of a group that does the kind of teach-one-another activities that were so intellectually stimulating.
The time I tried to go to a book club I found that it had been cancelled.
Is the Antelope Valley simply not very intellectually active? This seems unlikely. There are a wide variety of people who live here, many with high levels of education and undoubtedly a diversity of intellectual interests. But they don't seem to form any real groups.
Not being religious, or even a believer at all, I wouldn't feel right joining a church. The fellowship is great, but I'd be a big old hypocrite to claim belief where there is none, and as soon as someone in the church learned of my atheism, I'd be looked at very differently. No, better to let the church people have their churches and for me to go my own way.
We talked about some service or community groups, like Rotary, Kiwanis, or the Chamber of Commerce. All of these are of somewhat limited utility, too -- my colleague found that each of these got boring after a relatively short time. Chamber of Commerce is good if you want some drinking buddies; Rotary or Kiwanis would be OK if you want to do some charity work or community service but I can see how it would get old fast.
I'm hardly exceptional in this regard. People across the country are working harder than they have in the past, spending more of their free time at home, and spending less time in organized groups or clubs. The Wife and I try to have people over for dinner at least once a month; sometimes that turns in to a bigger deal than I would like it to be but it usually works out okay in the end.
I'm blessed with a rich, full, comfortable life, with many friends both old and new and lots of things going on. So what if I'm not much of a joiner? There is little doubt in my mind that in later years, this will seem like a happy, good time in our lives.