TA THUNG

I have just returned from the beach. It is such a relief to get away from the city crowds on the street and get among the city crowds at the shore. I love to watch the ocean. Since I couldn’t see it for people, I decided to watch people. Ocean watchers, prone on the sand, can observe the bubble and wash of spent waves, the boisterous dance of the junior combers, and beyond, in endless line, the proud plunging plumes of the great breakers. People watchers, from a similar posture, can observe padding feet, mincing legs, peeling haunches, paunches, sagging silhouettes, and the endless line of beach umbrellas—until a rush of running feet ends all vision in a blinding sandstorm.

The charm of the beach is equaled only by the subway in achieving the modern ideal of “togetherness.” Even the Iron Curtain is no screen against togetherness. The Chinese Communists call it Ta Thung, “the Great Togetherness,” a phrase from the classics describing a legendary golden age. Ta Thung can also mean “great similarity,” a remarkably apt term for the drab, mechanized uniformity of totalitarian togetherness. Seaside togetherness is not mechanized or drab, but just as uniform, in spite of the best efforts of swimsuit stylists.

Too often togetherness is confused with the Christian ideal. The idea of heaven which masses lounging saints on a golden strand can be forbidding to a man fresh from the seashore. Dante saw unending proximity as one of the torments of hell.

What makes comradeship a delight, and a great host inspiring? Not that they are together, but what they share together. Christian fellowship is koinonia, a sharing in the blessings of God. Christians are together with one another because they are together with Christ.

Without this relation ...

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