Union at the High School Reunion?


 I just read a perfectly delightful exchange between a 'thirty something' godson of mine with a friend of his on Facebook. They were discussing a political issue and maintained a level of mutual respect. They each made their points but were not argumentative. It was truly a pleasure to read their exchange.  

 I thought of joining in and then held back. Which I tend almost always to do.  And then it hit me as to why. My insight - for what it's worth - and perhaps only for me - is that I am only interested in 'whole being communication.' 

 Which is to say that I only will, or even 'can,' open up and communicate with another, if I am able to be my whole self with her.  

 I am somehow constitutionally incapable of splitting off from myself to engage in 'small talk' or to debate or argue. When I try, the pain is unbearable.   

 I simply cannot do it. I cannot argue just to argue. And, too, I cannot last for more than a few seconds if the topic is our current weather conditions.  

 My style is to communicate in a very reflective, open and vulnerable way - I communicate with my whole being. 

 And if I meet someone who, for whatever reasons, will not also be reflective, open and vulnerable, who is somehow absent from her whole being, well, I am stymied. I become silent and move away to collect myself.

 I've been told that this is because I am an introvert. It is said that an introvert will only join the conversation when the conditions are just right

 In the right conditions, the formerly quiet introvert may surprise everyone by his ability to express himself.

 For instance, I have one quiet, introverted son. At least that's how he usually is in social situations. 

 When the conditions are right, however, that is, when someone gives him a chance to be himself, he will talk rapidly and intensely, as he did last Saturday morning on the phone with his mother for more than two hours. 

 The topic was Shakespeare. If my son's 'Shakespeare button' is pressed, and you're prepared to listen and engage him, you will find yourself involved in an utterly fascinating exploration of the heights and depths of human nature. 

 And, by the way, this level of dynamic communication happens pretty well every Saturday morning!

 My wife will drop everything to hear from this Shakespeare-loving son of ours. Our hope is that one day our introverted son will meet a female being who has a similar interest and capacity to 'hear' the passion that is in him.    

 A clear memory is of when we visited this son at his dorm room on a Friday evening at the University of Toronto. "There they go", he said, with reference to all of the students walking outside.

 "Off they go", he said, "to their parties." My son never had the slightest interest in joining them. 

 As parents we thought: 'Just maybe, we did something right.'    

 Speaking of parties and party goers, it was my fortieth high school reunion recently. 

 Why would an introvert like myself go to such a party? Isn't that something of a suicidal act? Well, yes indeed, and that's how I felt for a good part of the time at the big bash, where the music was so loud that it was almost impossible to talk with anyone.

 What are the chances of 'whole being' communication at a high school reunion? Or, put differently - is it possible to experience 'union at the high school reunion?

 The typical thing at the bash was to hear my name called out and for arms to be thrown around me. Someone from forty years ago, would say how wonderful it was to see me again. She'd wrap me in her arms and then vanish into the ether. 

 I call these dramatic gestures forms of 'pseudo-intimacy' or "superficial integrations." They mean nothing to me.  

 Except that, there were, to my great relief, a few connections at the reunion.   And those connections made the evening worthwhile. Accordingly, I'm grateful to the crew who made the effort to organize the affair!

The question is - What needs to be there for a possible 'union at the high school reunion?' Well, I think it has do with this business of 'whole being communication.’  

 To communicate with one's whole being involves a determination 'to be in touch with' and 'to be continually aware' of what a philosopher has called "the part of the mind that longs for inner truth." 

 What is that part of us that longs for inner truth? It's our best part. It's that part of us that has come alive in the best moments of our lives. I am thinking of when any of us have felt ourselves to be "lost in wonder, love and praise.” 

 I am referring to those moments of inspiration in our lives when we have felt ourselves to be close to God, even if we are reluctant to say that we believe in God!

 If that part of us, our noblest part, gets left behind when we go to the party, the bash, or the reunion, well, what can you expect at the great event?  What level of union will occur? What quality of relations will you experience if it's your way of life to leave behind the best part of you when you walk in the door for the party?

 Well, the music was pounding at the reunion and the entire place was 'closing in on me.' But I could not and would not shut down that part of me that is always searching for something more

 Yet I thought: 'One more big hug and I'm out of here! 

 Just like in high school, by the way, forty years ago, when I would leave the party early and go home to listen to the Moody Blues.  

 And then she appeared. And I don't think she hugged me.  She just looked at me and I felt enormous space in her presence. 

 She didn't clog the space with affectation. She said: "Al" and in response to her recognition of me, something in me relaxed and I trusted her totally.

 I felt that this person who I did not remember at all, was herself, somehow free to be herself.

 She was there before me in the fullness of her being. There before me, was that ever so rare sight of an intact, soulful being. I was astonished by her vivid presence. 

 I then heard her life story. I heard about the suffering that had opened her to that part of her that longs for inner truth. 

 Why is it so often that great suffering  opens the human being to the spiritual quest?  

 The most obvious thing about my former classmate, was that she had fully befriended that part of her mind that yearns for inner truth. She radiated a felt understanding of this dimension of her being and her love for God shone through her.

 In the middle of the bash, just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, an angel had appeared. 

 Which is how it goes or can go. And I believe that it's all related to whether I am someone who is prepared to communicate with my whole being and not to separate myself from that best part of me that longs for inner truth.

 Unions that occur without that essential dimension are not, in my experience to be trusted. 

 As it's been put: "The unity of ordinary thought and ordinary emotion is the enemy of truth." That is, to unite with another without regard for that best part that searches for inner truth, is to be involved in, at the very least, a superficial union, or to be involved with what could easily be, or will prove to be, a false union.

 What is needed in contrast for a real and vital union, is the uniting power of "pure thought and pure feeling." (Jacob Needleman, The Heart of Philosophy)  This level of union has to do with when the highest and the best in you comes in contact with the same in me.

 Anything less than that kind of union is a union that by its nature will not and cannot last.  

 The great seers and sages say that our most important task is to give attention to the soul, to experience the awakening of that in us, which at the deepest level of our being corresponds to the highest principle of the universe. 

 But this awareness of soul will not enter my life automatically. I have to direct and concentrate my attention on this hidden depth of spiritual power. 

 If I do, I may find that union is possible at the reunion. Indeed, union may possible almost anywhere.