"At the risk of approaching a definition, a bohemian conservative believes humans ought to appreciate, live amidst, and even love the eccentric particularity of physical nature, of distinctive persons, of local culture, of odd traditions that reach back before memory, and more generally of the person rooted in time and place–a historical expression as unique as the proverbial snowflake. The bohemian conservative appreciates less the abstract beauty of the woman on the billboard and more the peculiar beauty of the woman who works at the diner. The bohemian conservative does not love the individualist as much as the eccentric person who is rooted in cultural soil unprocessed by sanitizing consumerism. The bohemian conservative admires the unique and peculiar over the abstracted perfection of a universal form."
(Ted V. McAllister, in "The Strange Lament of a Bohemian Conservative")
I regularly have to ask forgiveness for being contrarian just to be contrarian, for disliking what everyone else likes, for going to the movies when no one else goes, for eating at restaurants that not many other people seem to know about, for not reading a book that everyone else likes, and so on. Sometimes I just get an attitude.
But if I'm particular about the particulars of place and time and space, I like to think it's based on a principle, one that is creational. God made a world of diversity, not uniformity, created man and woman, not woman and woman, made all different kinds of plants and animals to be named, not one kind of plant and one kind of animal. You might even say that the Trinity itself is the root of it all, a wonderful particularity in the midst of unity. As summarized in many confessions, Father, Son, and Spirit are of one substance yet remain three distinct persons. Trinity and Creation thus compel me to regard particularity, in all its forms, as normative, as God's will for the world.
But that's enough theology. It just comforts me to know sometimes that there is some authority behind what I want to do.
I like Char-Grill for burgers, not McDonalds, because it's particular, only here, unknown much beyond the borders of Wake County.
In Wrightsville Beach, I always buy my gas at Tom and Nancy's gas station, because I like seeing a husband and wife run a business together, because they always come out and greet me as I pump gas, and because they sound like they're from the place where they live and do business, and because I can't find them anywhere else.
When I visit a city, town, or region, I want to do what the people that live and work and eat in that region do. I don't want to eat at Chilis, but Jacksons. I want to walk down the streets of Boston, with all their Boston-sounding names. I want to hear some local music. I want to know what's interesting about this place.
And I certainly don't want to watch Western TV shows in Kaihura, Uganda, even if I can, but prefer a place fairly untouched by the "sanitizing consumerism" under which we labor.
My teenagers don't understand this. They love what they love and have little time for the unpredictability of a local restaurant, of the unknown, for the quaint eccentricities of place. I don't even remember being that way. The most wonderful thing for me is an open road, a new place, and someone to share it with. Picture this: On midnight of the day I turned 16, armed with my learner's permit and a friend three months older with a license, I drove all night over four counties, stopping at corner stores, restaurants, and by the sides of the road (to soak up place and freedom, of course). Why? Because I wanted to see particular things, to experience something different than where I lived. Because I could.
And another thing: When I'm 75 and, God willing, looking across the room at my wife, she'll still be particular to me and profoundly mysterious, like everything that God thought up and made. Like those roadside stores and diners I saw at 16, like Tom and Nancy, like the stories my aunt tells of another time, like the cats that walk the halls of our home and curl at our feet, like that particular tree on that particular road on my way to work, like everyone I ever knew.
Jesus was a particular man. So am I.