Krista Tippett has a simply magical interview with writer and editor Paul Elie in which they talk about the work – and faith – of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, and Walker Piercy.
I have read Day’s autobiography and memoirs but in the years since I have forgotten her. Elie reminded me of how Day’s childhood experience of a San Francisco earthquake informed her sense of community. She watched people come together, meet each other’s needs, and love – and what she witnessed prompted in her the idealist’s question: “Why can’t we live like this all the time?”
Which is our question, no?
Because we have all had glimpses that Another World is Possible, haven’t we?
Elie calls Day’s impulse a “reformer’s imagination” and I have it too. Always imagining the world could be more, better than it is.
Except it’s more than an imagining. I’ve felt it. And lived it.
And you have too.
As Elie names in the interview, love is our nature:
“[Day] thought it possible for society to be different than it is because she thought that we’re naturally oriented toward love. We’re made to love one another. That’s natural. And strife and war are a deformity of that. But what we’re created for is to love one another and to love one another in community…[T]hough she was a radical and a formidable organizer, it was not a programmatic effort that got the Catholic Worker going. It was people doing what came naturally, which was loving one another in community and talking about it.”
What makes Day’s revelation and action so deep is how much she sought solitude or experienced herself to be alone. Listening to this interview this week brought me back to how deeply she lived in paradox. I also re-heard how committed she was to the practice that I and so many others engage: the constant process of coming out of our separation into community. What it takes to “live like this all the time” (in community) is alignment with our own very nature – love.
We are still learning, again and again, what Day confesses in the postscript to her autobiography:
“We are not alone any more. But the final word is love. We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
image credit: top – Stephen Crotts, right – historical photo