Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Coffee With Eric

In the early 1980s there was a theatrical run of a low-budget film called My Dinner With Andre. The entire movie was, literally, two friends named Andre and Wally having a great conversation across dinner and sorting out life issues. The relationship, the ideas, the brainstorming and the give-and-take--that was the action. Dialogue was character.

It certainly was not a film for everyone at that point in time, and would probably have even less commercial appeal more than 25 years since its release. But last night at a downtown coffeeshop with my good friend Eric Needle, I experienced again the deep joy of a heartfelt, multi-faceted conversation and celebrated how intellectual and emotional intimacy with an authentic human being is one of the great natural highs of life.

Eric is a very talented, creative, strategic marketing kind of guy who is the principle partner of a group of affiliated companies known collectively as Giant3. There are a few friends whom we come across in our travels that we can truly say changed the direction of our lives, and for me Eric is one of them. When I first moved to this community to build a new career, I met Eric early on and he was a tremendous asset in helping me think out of the box and learn how to more effectively market what I do. He built and maintains my personal Web site,; co-created the e-zines GreenBrevard and GreenOrlando with me; and, most importantly, has been a great friend with whom I discuss business, marketing, art, creativity, family and faith.

If our conversation over coffee, sandwiches and scones were a film, one of the highlights would center on our discussion of the humanities. Eric shares my fascination with how the great, timeless myths have impacted and influenced countless writers, poets, artists, religious thinkers, movement leaders and politicians across the centuries. I marveled out loud at the wonders of creativity that persons can possess, and how when they allow their creativity to be unleashed almost anything is possible.

A talented visual artist himself, Eric was making the distinction between looking at a book of reproduced paintings and viewing the painting itself. "It breaks you down," he said. "You weep."

"You've got to get to a museum," he added, as the coffeehouse crooner sang Ray Charles' classic tune "Georgia."

I thought of how true that statement was for myself and everyone. There are numerous distractions to keep us from the supposedly impractical act of "getting to a museum"--and the greatest expressions of art often line the galleries of our hearts, but we seldom get to this inner museum because it is easier to go someplace else. Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" was now filling the coffeehouse with sound. Is something happening, something tangible, when we just sit still or wander through the museum?

Eric and I also had some invigorating brainstorming concerning the institutionalized church. We are both passionate about our faith, and very involved in our respective church communities. Our discussion touched upon the expectations, assumptions and limitations we can bring into a worship service, and how the structure itself of how we "do" church often creates and reinforces those dynamics.

For example, a church service is designed to begin and end at a designated time; an aspect without precedent in any collection of holy scriptures from any of the world's main religions. And yet, at least in the Christian church, we hope for the "Spirit to move" while essentially failing to create a hospitable space for such movement. We design worship around what is pragmatic--clearly a mirror of our culture--rather than allowing worship to design us as we remain open to what transcendent surprises might occur week by week. How many other worthy pursuits do we hamstring with our expectations or demands, hindering potential we do not even realize is just below the surface?

Eric and I touched upon many other subjects--such as the enduring influence of Bono and the rock group U2--that I'll leave on the cutting room floor of the film editing suite. But I want to leave you with an encouragement to make the most out of opportunities to have quality conversations with deep thinkers. You're never the same when the conversation is over, and you've done something likely more productive and pragmatic than a number of things the culture deems to be relevant. Eric and I look forward to another Saturday night at the coffeehouse before long.

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At 4:11 AM , Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh wow, that sounds like it was a great time! I miss having deep conversations over coffee. I'm still working to expand my circle here in Boston.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your church ideas, actually. I make a distinction between the building (which houses the service or liturgy) and the people (who house the faith).

AND...just one more common thread...I'm Sicilian on my paternal side. My dad is second gen, I believe. Doesn't speak a lick of Italian, however. :-)

At 2:38 PM , Blogger John Michael De Marco said...

It was a great evening, except I drank so much caffeine that I could not sleep much that night...

I agree with the distinction between the facilities of a church and the people who make up the body. I'm a big proponent of cell groups that connect people above and beyond the institutionalized activities, and give context for vital relationships. Feel free to email if you'd like to discuss particular ideas related to church and spirituality, or pose some specific ideas or questions I can address here.



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