The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning Worship & Work
I have great affection for Steven Garber, author of The Seamless Life. I met Garber through Hope College’s Veritas Forum in 2003 when he introduced me (and the audience, which included my spouse and many of our closest friends) to the idea of proximity, of proximal justice, of doing the work of justice where we are with what is available and closest to us. The ideas Garber introduced me (us) to in 2003 have remained as I (my husband and friends) have fumbled and meandered our way through life. When I first encountered Garber and his idea of proximity and proximal justice, I was just beginning marriage and graduate school, wrestling with what shape my vocation and calling might take. I had not yet experienced the depths of loss and grief that I soon would. Often, over the course of the decades since I first met Steven Garber, doing the work where I was with what was closest to me was all that kept me moving forward.
The word proximate has remained a central piece of Garber’s work and appears in this book:
The word [proximate] has become one that matters to us because we are people who–while longing for what is to be what should be, for the wounds of life and the world to be finally and fully healed–know that in this frail, fallen life, that is not going to happen tomorrow. And it might not even happen this year. What do we do then? It is always possible to give up, knowing that we tried…But it is within the dynamic of hope hoped for that we have come to the word proximate. Can we try, and try again, making peace with something even if it is not everything (24)?
Even though the idea of proximate has remained part of my thinking and living for the last twenty years, I confess that I have often been tempted to give up. If I haven’t yet lost my dynamic of hope, I think I am in the process of losing it, given the fractured and violent world we currently inhabit. So it seems this book came to me at just the right time, at a time when I needed to, as Garber writes, “remember to remember”, to consider what it means to live seamlessly, to seek and find the coherence between who I am and why I am.
Garber, in this book published in 2020, challenges us to move beyond a fragmented sense of reality to see and live seamlessly. He challenges us to a proximate life of coherence. He asks, “What does it mean to see seamlessly? To see the whole of life as important to God, to us, and to the world…is to understand that our longing for coherence is born of our truest humanity, a calling into the reality that being human and being holy are one and the same life” (2). Throughout the book, Garber reveals the ways that we humans are “disposed to dualism”, the ways that we divorce work and worship, the ways we separate human and holy, the ways we idolize sex, money, and freedom instead of seeing “everything as sacred, everything as born with meaning and purpose…” (111). If ever there was a time to remember to remember, to see seamlessly, to live a life of coherence, the time is now. War, gun violence, racial violence, discord and divide in religion and politics, a heightened pull toward tribalism and us-versus-them, and the groaning of Creation seen in natural disasters all point to incoherence and dualism. We need to ask, as Garber writes, “what it means to pay attention, to see ourselves implicated in what is real and true and right” (98). Garber reminds us that we need the dynamic of hope and the peace to try and try again.
As I began reading The Seamless Life, knowing I would write this review, I assumed this would be a great gift for high school or college graduates. Knowing Garber’s work on college and university campuses and his affinity for those recent graduates (and those wandering to find what’s next) seeking wisdom in vocation, I began reading with that demographic in mind. It didn’t take too many pages to realize that I, a middle-aged-white-middle-class-woman-wife-mother-employee-sister-daughter-friend, needed to read this book. I needed the encouragement to remember to remember. I needed to see again that “[one] area of life is connected to every other area of life–by the very nature of the universe (uni-verse that it is)” (6). Proximate.
I think it’s important to note, though, that I read this book very differently in the autumn of 2023 than I would have read it when it was published in 2020. We have experienced and witnessed even more, and even deeper and wider, incoherence in these three years. While I read the book differently now than I would have, it was even more important for me to read now than it would have been then. So, no, this book isn’t just for those recent graduates exploring vocation; it’s for all of us who long to see seamlessly and who want to remember to remember. It’s for all of us who are seeking to live a proximate life and have the courage to grasp the dynamic of hope and hold on to it as tightly as possible.
Because we are soon entering the Advent season, I’ll leave us all with this:
Christmas sets before human hearts the world over a line in the sand, a battle over the meaning of life…Against all odds, against every imagination and pretension, when we believe in Christmas we are believing that God is not silent, that in time and space grace has become flesh, inviting us to forgive and forget the heartaches of our own lives because we now see that a morally meaningful life is possible because ‘everything in God’s world has its meaning’…Like all things that matter most, it is a question of having eyes that see what is real and right and true, and what is not (85).
May we all have eyes that see what is real and right and true, and may we all remember to remember.