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The Bulwark Community Is Real
Maybe it’s the Xanax or the jet lag, but I’m feeling emo and I want to talk about it with you.
On Thursday night Sarah, Tim, and I taped The Next Level live, at the Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles. The theater is across the street from Capitol Records and it’s an iconic Hollywood venue. Sinatra played there. The Stones played there. The Jackson 5. Nirvana. Smashing Pumpkins. And . . . us?
I sat backstage before the show, taking in both the history and the oddity. I mean, our pictures were on the marquee. It was crazy.
And the effect of all of this crazy was to leave me unsettled in a deep way.
Part of it was that I’m not a joiner. Not a party guy. Also, I’m out of practice. I haven’t performed live since before the COVID days. And I didn’t want to disappoint all of these people who took time out of their schedules to come see us.
A few months ago I saw Renée Elise Goldsberry at a small-ish theater in Jersey. I wrote about the show because it was amazing and something she said towards the end stuck with me. Renée said that sometimes your job is simply to show up to receive.
And that’s what happened on Thursday night. This community that we have all—you, me, all the people at The Bulwark on both sides of the computer—built together was there at the Avalon not to take, but to give. To me, Sarah, and Tim—and also to each other.
I met Bulwark readers who had driven in to the show together from other parts of town. A reader who flew in from Georgia. A couple who came from Boulder. A guy who drove up from Tijuana.
I talked to people in groups of what I assumed were long-time friends, but found out that they had just met and bonded.
One reader, who’s an artist, did a sketch of me, Sarah, and Tim during the show. Another gal, who’s Catholic (like me) and a bad flyer (also like me) brought me a rosary to keep in my pocket for the rest of my flights.
I met people I’ve been emailing with for years. People whose handles I know from the chat on the Thursday livestreams.
And it hit me—like a freight train—that this thing of ours is bigger than a website and podcasts and emails. It’s a living community of good people. Of kind people. Of people of different ages and demographics and political views, sure. But who are the same in the essentials of character.
What hit me is that this thing of ours is real.
Before I close out, though, I want to say something about gratitude. It is, to my mind, the queen of the virtues. Without gratitude you cannot have perspective. You cannot know what is worth preserving and what is worth aspiring to. Without gratitude you cannot live in community with others.
The human experience is, properly understood, centered around gratitude. This is something I try to be mindful of every minute of every day.
I am thankful for you and the thousands of Bulwark readers. I’m thankful for you all the time—for your generosity and kindness and willingness to share and engage.
And today I’m thankful for the real community, the real fellowship, you’ve given to each other and especially to me.
Thanks guys. See you soon.