During homecoming week at my University, the student government strung balloons in the coffee shop. I watched them do it. These brightly colored inflatables were tied to chairs all around the warm atmosphere of Whitworth’s Mind and Hearth.
It’s a weird idea, isn’t it? Balloons in coffee shops?
Coffee shops are usually so reserved. Places of deep interpersonal connection, personal study, or work. They are a place where we take things seriously. A place that youth ministers try and take that discipleship to the next level. A place that, historically speaking, was the birthplace of a lot of the modern philosophical framework we find ourselves molding our world assumptions through.
Not a place with balloons.
Balloons are celebratory. They’re a symbol of the ecstatic. Of emotion that can’t be contained. We grew up with balloons at birthday’s, graduation parties, festive holiday events; gatherings centered around great joy and excitement. They let us know not to take ourselves too seriously. They urge us to hang loose and relax.
The idea of having balloons in coffee shops doesn’t make sense to us.
We have been brought up in an environment that has trained us to associate the serious with one setting and the relaxed with another. We have set up a dualism, a categorization of this-or-that, in our minds. You have parties and you have powerpoint conversations. Festivities with cake and ice cream and deep talks about metaphysics. You don't mix the two.
How ridiculous is that? That the intellectual can’t be colorful and fun? That excitement can’t be profound and life-altering?
Haven’t you had moments when you were celebrating with people and you started getting this tingling? This feeling wash over you of “wow, this moment is outrageously beautiful.” A moment that spoke far more to you than any forced discussion about something "deep" in a coffee shop.
In the same sense, have you ever been in a coffee shop or a serious setting and you couldn’t help but laugh, smile, or do something else that went against the norm of that setting? It’s because the “serious”, at least when you really look at it, can be hilarious. A bunch of finite individuals focused so diligently on something they’ll probably never think about again after a few short weeks?
Our categories for things don’t make sense because life always seems to want to tear down those categories.
We’d like to think that balloons exist in one setting and coffee shops in another, because we like to know what we are going to get.
But life isn’t like that. Life is this unbelievably large flood of different emotions and possibilities that could all hit us anywhere at anytime.
You can laugh hysterically in the middle of someones explanation of a new novel they’re working on. You can experience the most profound thoughts of your life at a surprise birthday party wit all those closest to you in attendance.
Life transcends categorization.
One thing I love about Jesus is that he was always able to unveil the sacred in the ordinary, and also point out how sometimes when trying to tap into the sacred with seriousness, we miss the point. Jesus showed the metaphorical nature of bread and wine as well as the absurdity of those publicly praying to impress.
Why don’t we put more balloons in coffee shops?
Why don’t we tear down those boundaries of where certain things can and cannot happen and allow ourselves to be open to the full range of emotion that we humans have the gift of experiencing?
What are moments in your life that you had an emotion that went against the normal type of emotion usual for that particular event? What was that like for you? Does it stick out to you? What would it look like in your life to be open to encountering the profound in the relaxed and the joyous in the serious?