Jared Witt l May 10, 2018
My soul needs a biergarten.
It's a national health emergency in my country. Loneliness is epidemic. I mean that. Literally and officially: epidemic!
I’m being neither figurative nor hyperbolic. Vivek Murthy, the former United States surgeon general, has written that loneliness and social isolation are “associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”
Even Britain has recently appointed it’s first “Minister for Loneliness.”
I read a sad story about an older gentleman, an expat from Spain living in England. Walking through the park one day, he happened upon a group of young kids who all started vying for his attention and he was happy to oblige (such interactions are common and expected in the less leery communities of Spain). Hardly had the man kicked a ball or disheveled a hairdo before a militant phalanx of Moms and club-wielding Bobby’s fell upon him and heaved him into a paddy wagon. I wonder why they need a Minister for Loneliness over there?
At least the Brits had the good sense to realize that the whole thing was a misunderstanding and dismiss the charges after a few days (the man quickly moved back home to Spain). I’d hate to think how it would’ve been handled in my country. After all, we saw that thing on the news about how the bad stuff happened that one time. So obviously the only sensible thing is to raise our kids in isolation chambers, nourish them through a sterile IV drip, and assume that any older person who approaches is guilty until proven innocent. They’ll grow up just as cripplingly lonely as we are and lose some life expectancy because of it, but hey, you gotta be careful these days.
We need a biergarten. The malignant spread of strip mall tumors and fast food nodes is almost unrestrained. The Walmart-ification of our lives is near complete.
Even the travel guidebooks for our most venerated cities begin with pages of instructions for how to plane, train, and Uber your way past concentric miles of soulless department stores and cheap office park blight before you get to the “old city center.” We vacation now to admire the aesthetic pleasantries that were the everyday surroundings of our allegedly rougher and less developed ancestors. Because, you know. Progress.
It’s not that we don’t ever have a mind for beauty and soulfulness in the spaces we create, just not the spaces where we spend most of our day out in public. If you can afford it, you’re more than welcome to retreat to your own private suburban palace. In our gated communities, it’s all oak, granite, and flagstone as far as the eye can see. Not a cost was spared. After all, those spaces belong to individuals. They’re sacred.
But that brings us back to our original problem: the loneliness.
So we need to build a biergarten.
We need places with character and a story. Stories, actually. Literally. We need a stranger to lean over to us and launch into some completely unsolicited story about his cousin. And when he does, we need to get over the impulse to immediately check our watch and look busy, as if the twenty minutes we had just spent scanning Instagram stories was time well spent, but now this Bozo is a major imposition.
We need bartenders who ask how our mother is doing, Thursday night board game groups, and that guy who likes the dark beers and works for Chase, whose name we can never remember. We need him too.
Time is running out. Look at us. We’re drinking but not tasting. Eating but not nourishing. Looking but not seeing. Living but not feeling. Our medical diagnosis is lonely, and the souls of our gathering spaces are going just as numb as our own.
We need a biergarten.
A lot of people get it instantly. Some need to puzzle through it a little more: you’re a pastor? So why a brewery?
The answer is simple. It’s for my soul.
Cheers and Peace,
On how Castle Church is stirring up a movement from a brewery in Florida.