BACK HOME AGAIN
I just finished one of my most enjoyable and exhausting weeks in recent memory. It had essentially three components – meeting my publisher in
In each of the three cities I visited, I couldn’t help but notice the following difference between
As the week went on, I found myself getting progressively drained of physical energy, but there was a psychological exhilaration in seeing old friends and old stomping grounds that kept me going strong. For me, it’s all about connectedness. The more I age, the more I value feeling connected. In this case, I’m talking about feeling connected to a previous person-stage.
Truly, isn’t a person nothing more than a series of person-stages? We can talk all we want about the value of living in the present or of dreaming about the future, and I try to do both. But if we want to be whole beings, if we want to understand how and why we developed as we have, or how and why we chose the friends or occupations we chose, we had better connect our present selves with the person-stages that preceded us. And that can only be done when we connect with the people who once mattered the most to us but with whom we’ve somehow fallen out of touch.
I don’t go to all my school reunions. I’ve never been to a law school reunion and have no plans to go to one. My feelings about my law school itself were sufficiently ambivalent that I’m not sure I could enjoy the occasion. But I never miss my college or high school reunions, and almost invariably, I enjoy the heck out of them. It’s not that I think of all my high school or college buddies as “kindred spirits;” in some respects, my friends and I have grown far, far apart. I do, however, appreciate that these people helped to shape who I am, know things about me that perhaps I would no longer admit to myself, and have shared some of my favorite moments or influences. Why would we not value time spent every few years with such people?
For me, being connected with other people lies at the heart of spirituality. Life isn’t just about meditating in silence, or communing with natural beauty. It’s also about being able to love other people, some of whom might not even care as much about you in return. It’s about building loving relationships. And I mean relationships with other people – particularly old friends. As Spinoza said, “nothing is more advantageous to man than man.” That’s hard to believe when you deal with bureaucrats, or arrogant lawyers, or rapacious corporate executives, or hypocritical clergymen, or bullying politicians …
But, as a general matter, it remains true. We need each other. And we really need our old friends. Those who feel able to ignore them for long periods of time do so at their own psychological and spiritual peril.