Last night, I went to see Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. I’ve been an avid admirer of Anthony Bourdain since the very first time I watched his show No Reservations. At the time, I wasn’t sure what struck me so deeply about him or his work. In some regards, it’s still a confusing connection. I’m not particularly interested in either food or travel. I enjoy a good meal as much as anyone else I suppose, but food simply isn’t a passion of mine; its not a profound point of sacredity to me. Most days my meals consist of coffee and a vending machine pack of peanut butter crackers. On many occasions I will happily forgo a meal all together if it means I’m granted more time to work on something creative.
As far as travel is concerned, I was much better traveled in my youth. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up, and we traveled with frequent regularity. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t still some places that I wanted to see, but I’m not a person bolstered by the aspiration to see the world. It’s not that I’ve laid down roots to my current locale and all wanderlust has been abated; that simply isn’t true. I’ve lived in Brevard County Florida for something like 20 years and most days I still struggle to find my way around. I’m not sure I’ve ever really attempted to scratch the surface of what the area has to offer. And yet, every year living here, the realization that I don’t belong escalates rather than subsides. I think in all of my previous travels, and in all my current efforts, there is a secret search to find a place that feels like home, and the older I get the more I begin to realize that may be no place ever will.
I’ve never felt at home in the world, I still don’t. And, somehow, even through broadcasted pixels, I could recognize the same kind of lonely restlessness in Anthony Bourdain that I saw in myself. That was enough to make me believe; enough to make me believe that maybe, I wasn’t alone, and that just maybe, there was somewhere I belonged. I still haven’t found that place. I’m still searching for it. Maybe I’ll never find it. Maybe Tony never did either, but he taught me how to search and how to have faith. He taught me that they are one and the same thing; faith is both the thing we search for and the thing that makes us search.
In one of the letters of St. Paul he says that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. David Brooks says that “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.” Paul and Brooks may have written those words, but Tony Bourdain taught me the meaning of them.
Faith is the faint yet profoundly tangible sense of something unnameable beckoning us to parts unknown; the whispers of our deepest longing calling us with no reservations toward a secret shimmering in the distance. Waiting is hard. It’s even harder when you’re hurting. It’s agony atop an already existing agony, piled upon an older agony still. It’s difficult to rest. It’s easy to be restless. It’s hard to find peace, but maybe there is a way to be at peace when we are restless. Perhaps rest comes when we are able to make peace with our restlessness. Perhaps patience is easier when we are able to see that we are not alone.
Tony Bourdain taught me that belonging is not tied to a geographic location, it is not an intrinsic quality of a place, but an implicit characteristic of a moment in time; it is an event. Belonging is the invitation of a knowing glance that cuts across a crowd and meets the gaze of the one other person who is as radiantly damaged as you. It’s the wink of realizing that you’re in on a joke with a stranger that becomes your best friend in an instant. Belonging is the simple grace and communion of being given a seat at a table when you are far from home, beside the warmth and familiar strangeness of someone welcoming. It’s the voice of someone asking you how you take your coffee when you’re tired, anxious, and afraid. It’s the moment when you notice that the arm stretching out to hand you the cup is scarred, and their scars look just like yours. It’s the quiet nod of acknowledgment that they know you’ve seen, and you know they understand. It’s hard to put a name on what that feeling is, or what exactly it means, it’s just something you know. And, if you know…well, then you know, and that’s a faith worth sharing.
I think I can understand why Tony couldn’t stay, I think maybe I always did. Maybe that was always the connection that bound me to him. And, maybe, that’s why I know I can’t leave; if ever I can give someone the gift that he gave me, the gift of “less-lonely”, then I don’t think I could ever bear the thought of taking it away.
Faith is not something we can ever really hold or find, it’s simply the search…