Recently, a friend of mine and I were reminiscing over old times. As the conversation rolled on, he noted that occasionally (people on a WhatsApp group that I'm no longer a member) keep bringing up the idea of having a reunion.
To the average mind, such an idea must sound rather noble. I mean, how cool would it be for a band of long-lost brothers to meet, hang, exchange notes and reminisce over anything and everything? It's absolutely lovely, isn't it?
Yeah, for sure, absolutely awesome. It's the very testament to the strength of the bonds of former friendship. It's also a way for us to proclaim victory over the natural tendency to drift. Again, only to the uninquisitive mind. Oh my, such hubris.
Such an idea no matter how noble is quite a fart from the mind that conceives and entertains it. It's as intellectually impotent as it is emotionally obese.
Upon serious consideration of the topic, I have come to the conclusion that time has nothing but utter contempt for such musings.
Someone might ask, “really, how so?". Well, with the passing of time:
- People spread across wide geographical locations.
- People assume different obligations that create somewhat irreconcilable schedules.
- Some become rich, some become poor.
- Individual personalities and religious interests change
- People physiques and health change.
- God forbid, some people are retired by time. Damn it! We are all bound to expire.
Not only will this list of considerations tend to grow, but also the nuances of the items to consider tend to get out of control.
If we think about it, even if the problems of distance and schedules are momentarily negotiated, the people we imagine we're going to reunite with are often anything but the people we eventually meet. This realization is the first blow that time normally has for us.
The second dose of truth that time gladly rubs on our faces is the sense of loss. First, it is the realization that we can no longer adequately really on our old sense of rapport. Secondly, we realize that often the former hierarchical order has been disturbed if not entirely overturned.
Too often, a friend who held a lot of promise back in the day, could in the moment be barely holding their head above water. On the other hand, someone who was often looked at as an underdog could very well be running a town somewhere. These turn of fortunes goes in all sorts of life aspects e.g health, physique, social approval.
It's then not too difficult to foresee how people would shy away from an opportunity to parade their shortcomings in front of their former peers.
Isn't that too simplistic of an argument? Good point. It's quite simplistic. We haven't even considered the fact that a reunion is seldom just a gathering of former comrades.
From personal observation and stories I have heard, reunions are actually a parade of the lives of our former mates. Some individuals will often bring their wives, fiances, girl, work colleagues, kids. They will then, in the name of sharing, continue to talk about their relations, positions in the world and goals.
It's at this stage that the disparity in fortunes and shortcomings of expectations become so obvious. So conspicuous that no one needs labor the point.
Both fortunately and sad, nature does her thing. Contrary to the impotent fantasy that begged for the reunion, lines are automatically drawn between classes ~ birds according to the colors of their feather.
Those who are demonstrably doing well seek out each other. This group has a tendency to signal the grandiosity of their ideas and vision. Save a few modest souls, they literally have all their balls out.
In fact, more often than not, they are will speak loudly and clearly for all to hear. After all, they have a host of exceptional experiences, breakthroughs and witty nuggets to share. All in the name of mentioning something that may help a brother. Aren't their intentions of the noblest kind?
If you were lucky to be telepathic, you would probably see their minds singing (or shouting in disapproval):
- What happened to you? All that talent and promise, what became of it?
- All these ideas and opportunities are literally up for grabs if you would just open your eyes
- Oh my! He/she is married to a frog.
- He is unmarried at 30. Seriously!!
- These are peasants. He/she eats, talks, walks, signals like a peasant
- He is unmarried at 30. Seriously!!
- Oh my! He/she is married to a frog.
Those who are neither doing badly nor terribly well flock in another group. They must strive to reminisce in whispers amongst themselves. Having discovered their peasant status, they must be gracious enough to play audience to their better, noble peers 👆🏻.
Those who are doing rather poorly are in most cases spared the agony of this facade because they most likely fail to turn up. They end up being smart by circumstance.
At the end of the event, members from either camp will extend a hand to members of the other. It's important to be civil you know; five minutes of compelled small-talk.
Some doing so with a sense of shame. Some doing so with a sense of feigned respect (which is really disguised pity, judgment, and discomfort). They might even offer their contacts or business cards (a complete charade, don't be fooled).
We must, however, not get the wrong idea. It's not that those in the successful camp are bad people. It is not even that they are proud. Nor does snobbery has to do with the fragmentation of the reunion.
It's simply the order of nature to have birds of a feather flocking together. It is simply what it is.
The discomfort experienced in such events is a consequence of our failure to understand the extent to which time does its thing. This naivete leads to an underwhelming experience, which seals the demise of the group holding the reunion.
An event meant to be a celebratory occasion turns into a facade of individuals doing their best to assert their former bonds. Some by laying low, lest they parade their relative shortcomings. Some by trying to assert themselves among those who have succeeded, while at the same time attempting to be gracious to those who are obviously not been treated kindly by time.
This reminds me of an incident our high school principal (sheriff) staged for us using his former classmate as a prop.
Quite predictably, although not quite apparent at the time, the other gentleman was then a person of a lower station than our principal. The purpose of the show was for the ‘lesser man’ to recount the errors of his ways. Ways which had earned him his unflattering position.
As you can imagine, this was some sort of grandstanding on the part of our sheriff. Suffice to say, the sheriff had indeed picked a character who in a lot of ways fit into the kind of story that he aimed for. The story fit the cliche plot, that is, indiscipline, drugs, academic failure, economic turmoil, trivial results.
Were it not for the incredible oratory skills and impeccable command of the English language on the man's part, the incident wouldn't even be something memorable.
He must have hoped that the story would somehow instill a profound fear in us. So profound that it would deter us from going down the same path. Maybe it did for some; there is a good chance it has long been forgotten by many.
I still remember the eloquence and polished manner the guy went about his story. As far as the actual details of the story, they're honestly a distant memory.
For a long time, I thought that courage must have compelled that man to parade his failure in front of his former peers (teachers and the sheriff) and hundreds of young men.
Now that I really think about it, I think that maybe courage wasn't his sole motivator. Maybe it was one of the few ways he had left to feel useful.
Useful in the eyes of his former classmate, for playing the example that we would hopefully never have to be. That he could somehow turn around decades of barren drifting to a net positive. Maybe he did, I truly hope so.
What about our principal? He obviously looked down upon the other man as a peasant (less accomplished individual). Yet in his own twisted way he still was convinced that something good could be achieved by his former comrade's story.
He must have seen himself as a gracious person, which was clearly evident in the way he introduced and later thank the man.
Such is the burden that time imposes on us. The undying need to want to assert ourselves to society, especially to our peers. Yet time continues to allocate fortunes mercilessly knowing that in due time she will kick our butts out of existence; out of its not-so-comfortable comfort 😂.