Milieu is a French word referring to our experience of changing environments. Milieu is a powerful reality the likes of which we are seldom aware. A frog, for example, dropped in a boiling pot of water will hop and flail attempting to free itself from the pot. The same frog, however, placed in the pot while the water is cold will remain unmoved until the surrounding water has made frog legs for dinner. We seldom realize the effects of culture upon us until we are already shaped by it.
I am now a city bus driver greeting a new culture from that of the church in which I have lived most of my life and career. The church by most standards is a rather genteel culture in comparison to that of the city bus. Most churches are a self selected “nice” people, or people who choose to be “nice” as long as they participate (though certainly there are some exceptions).
Buses however are seines cast into a sea of humanity. It is anybody’s best guess who will end up on the seat across from them. Conversations that “nice” people would never engage in are daily fare and relationships change with every stop depending on who gets on or off. It is a constantly changing community of necessity as it rumbles to each next destination. There are those who ride to get somewhere and those who do not. There are those who ride because it is affordable, and those seeking a new experience. There are those going to work and those getting off. There are families, school kids, pimps, pushers, and lovers; joy riders, appointment rushers, excursionists and lunch goers. Young and old find seats together, persons whole of body and soul and those who struggle.
Riders, even for the few moments they are aboard, find their day altered. It is a self selected enforced community of waiting, and so much happens in the short time you are aboard. Those who open themselves to the experience can soon feel sensorial overload. Those who have found coping mechanisms engage them immediately upon entry. To continue a metaphor, riding a city bus is a beautiful reminder that we are swimmers in an ocean of relationships that is constantly changing our experience and our being (Rilke).