Living in the Bay Area for the last two or so years has been an enormous blessing to me. After all the sunshine and lack of rain in glorious San Diego, I confess that I was getting a little tired of the absence of seasonal change and no matter how wonderful things were down there over four years of undergrad, SoCal has never really felt like home.
So, for the last two or so years, I have found myself thoroughly enjoying the rainy drizzles and infuriatingly cold NorCal mornings. (Yes, despite my four-week-long cold, I really have been [inwardly DEEP DOWN] pleased with this ridiculous cold spell that has kept us in the low 30s.) In fact, going to school in Oakland has brought me even closer to the cultural “action” of the Bay with its rich history, culture, and people, for which I am very grateful.
And when you talk about people in the Bay Area, you can’t NOT talk about the pervasive “hipster” culture that exists here. The thick-rimmed glasses. The “fixie”/fixed gear bicycles. The mason jars. The coffee culture. The indie/folk/indie-folk bands. The ridiculously expensive but well-made clothes. The organic/super-healthy food/farmers’ markets. You couldn’t escape it if you wanted to.
And for the past two days, the Lord has been gently nudging me to examine the reasons why I personally have felt attracted to this expansive cultural phenomenon, despite my living in the Fremont suburbs. Why does this lifestyle, despite its lack of practicality (don’t kill me for saying that, but if you live in Fremont, you know its true), appeal to my heart?
(Perhaps I should have questioned why the Lord was putting it on my heart at all, since it’s a weird question to begin with. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t.)
So, of course, the answer, as many of them do nowadays, comes to me when I am showering.
The reason it appeals to me – perhaps the same reason it appeals to many people – is that the hipster culture gives imbues such meaning to the life that we lead here on this earth. I know it sounds weird at first, but hear me out. You take, for example, coffee – something that many people are familiar with. We drink it every day. In the 1990s, my parents used to do something many other people did at the time: pop open a canister of Folger’s instant coffee crystals, spoon some into a cup, and pour hot water. Wala! (Is that even how you spell that?) You get the best part of waking up: halfway decent coffee!
But where’s the connection? Where’s the meaning to it? Starbucks and the television series Friends, in many ways, have been instrumental in bringing coffeehouse culture back, but for all of their commercialized success, they have failed to provide the sense of connection and relationship that people so desperately yearn for. (Which is ironic, since the show was called “Friends”.)
So, where are we now? Why, at the forefront of a coffee revolution! In the Bay Area alone, we have Four Barrel, Ritual, Sightglass, Blue Bottle, Philz, Ecco, Barefoot, Verve – the list goes on and on. Gone are the days of “Arabica” being the mark of premium coffee. These people are INVESTED in the coffee. They know the people who grow the beans, the people who transport the coffee beans, the people who roast the beans, the people who grind the beans, and the people who brew coffee and pull the shots. The type of cup, the type of equipment, the type of filter is exact. From the amount of coffee grounds to the temperature of the water, we have imbued MEANING…from a bean.
I’m not criticizing. Far from it. I am extremely partial to my Blue Bottle coffee and am a frequent patron of my local coffee house. My commentary is merely to say that that hipsters, like many of us, are seeking for meaning. Meaning that, without Christ’s sacrifice to restore our relationship with God the Father, often eludes us, bringing us to our knees in hopelessness and uncertainty. Should I have been as surprised as I was? Probably not. But I find myself relishing the journey towards greater revelations and hope at the foot of the Cross.
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 (ESV)