Paradox: I am a tourist in a city where I live. Today with camera attached to my arm, I have chosen to drink coffee on Vaci Utca with other tourists. Snapping photos, gazing at the 18th century architectural wonders, dodging baby carriages, and sniffing forbidden Hungarian spiced wine, I am blending. The city with its Euro-vintage, old-world charm takes the breath away and I find myself wishing for a simpler time when tourism was not the focus.
They are tearing up the disjointed, uni-level cobble stone of Vaci Utca and putting in quaint, evenly-leveled ecru tiles. From someone’s perspective, I am sure that this makes economic sense but I am filled with regret. Surely, future generations will wonder what the street looked like back in the day.
Maybe it is part of the reason that Harry Potter was so appealing to a generation. I always had the feeling that entering its pages awarded me with an uncompromised view of an England that once existed. A place that I long to know but can never really find.
This desire to breathe the authentic air of a place, devoid of tourist traps and commercially placed tiles carries over into many aspects of my life. It is what I want for my Church, for my faith, for my relationships. A nicely paved apologetic does not lead me into faith, it makes me want to run away. A program that pulls me through the doors feels everything but authentically personal. A religion that steps in and out of my pain without really living it with me is an empty image.
From my 2nd story perch, I watch a group of three Italians on bikes charm a pretty Croatian girl to take a photo. Their loud machismo feels strangely attractive against her shyly feminine eastern european tones. It is nice, this impulsive blending, spontaneous intrusion into a life, a day, a moment.
I am too young to be a hippy and to old to be a hipster, but I breathe this air. I get this cry for authenticity in our lives, in our church, and in the Venn diagram of the moments in between where real life is found.
To leaders, those that try, with good intentions, to direct traffic through the doors, please stop laying down ecru tiles that do not belong in the architecture of life. The cobblestones may cause us to trip but they belong here. This generation, as none before, will surely resent their absence.
As Philippinos try to survive today in the wake of a storm, as Alabanians fill the streets of Tirana to protest against chemical weapons, as Syrian refugees continue to flood Bulgaria, our world watches with jaded eyes for a response beyond Christian tourism. Will we move in and live in the pain? Will we enter into and remain, wearing paths of daily monotony across cobblestone streets?
Finishing this post, I set aside my coffee realizing that this is not where I belong either, even for today. Blending as a tourist, comfortable, safe, pleasant, offers few real, fulfilling rewards for a heart that was truly meant to live.