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“Who is the audience for this thing?” my 91-year-old father asked, trying to show interest but clearly perplexed.
I had my laptop out, and I was kneeling beside him, scrolling through my weblog, stopping at items he might like. He awkwardly leaned forward to read through his bifocals, and I kept adjusting the angle of the portable screen. “Can you see it?” I asked, “because there might be a glare…”
He was impressed that readers could quickly post their responses to whatever I’d written. “Isn’t that marvelous,” he said. But since he derives all his knowledge of the World Wide Web from “Wall Street Journal” articles, and since he has never answered an email or gone online, he doesn’t really know what a blog is.
His question about my audience was important though, so I tried to answer it.
“Well,” I said, pausing to arrange my chattering thoughts, “there’s a vast and growing group of people who…um, they may be Christian, or they may be Jewish, or they may be anything, but they have an avid interest in spirituality. They want to experience daily some kind of observance or, well, the word ‘ecstacy’ might be too strong, but…”
I feared I was tanking, but I could see that he was listening intently.
I started again. “These people I’m addressing may or may not attend a religious service weekly, BUT they actually want to tune into a spiritual side of themselves every day through some kind of contemplative practice, so I’m there, with my column, to support them or give them ideas.”
“What is a contemplative practice?” he asked.
“Well, I’m referring in part to Asian or Eastern contemplative traditions like meditation, but also, a-hem,” I cleared my throat. “As you know from studying history, all religions have some form of–“
“Well,” my father said with a Presbyterian huff. “I really don’t think that Asian stuff is going anywhere.”
“Oh, no, Dad! No, no, no. It is! Look at all the ladies doing yoga in their church basements!”
He wasn’t convinced. But he liked my blog, or professed to.
He was born at a time when horses still pulled his neighborhood fire engine. He lost two younger brothers in World War II. He worked at a job for many years that didn’t fulfill him. He didn’t notice his kids until we forced him to.
But yesterday, I saw him reaching out to me, leaning forward through the decades, trying to understand what I do. He was especially glad that I loved my work, that everything seemed to be congealing into a stack of blogged letters to friends and strangers. I have a purpose. He could see that.