Continuance and Return
Having just returned from my High School reunion, I had some time to think on the way back home: what is so special about these reunions. I concluded that it was continuance and return. We spent four years together, every day, learning, interacting, and growing together. We spent about 25% of our lives, up to that point, together, and this is surely not insignificant. Activities didn’t just happen during the school day; many of them extended into after-school hours and beyond.
I remember my Homecoming Parade during my Senior year. Prior Homecoming parades seemed rather insignificant, but, for my Senior one, the reality of the-end-of-things become readily apparent. This chapter of my life was ending and the time remaining ahead of me in this place was much shorter than that long stretch of time behind me from Freshman year forward. I felt the impending freedom, but also a sense of loss.
I had made many friends over the years, a larger number of acquaintances, and an even larger number of recognitions – people that I saw but rarely interacted with. I was in a relationship at the time, and I didn’t quite understand the challenges that loomed before me as familiarity and presence would be challenged by distance both physically and emotionally. My lessons weren’t just going to stop when I received my diploma.
The cyclical nature of reality is one of the two great powers at play in the universe (the other being the ironic nature of the universe). This supposition of mine fits kindly into the theme of Continuance and Return. I did go off to college my next year, my relationship that meant so very much to me failed in the next year, and while I returned for holidays to work in a seasonal job and visit family and friends, I continued with college and then university thereafter.
I pondered, as my relationship was feeling the pull of time, distance, and immediacy the concept of continuance. What exactly is continuance? It is the concept of staying the path and moreover staying the path where your feet, and your life, had previously been treading. I thought long and hard about staying in my hometown with my partner and living the life that was the path of least resistance. In the end, I chose not to do so, and have always wondered, wistfully, what would have happened if. Continuance was not in the cards for me.
This in no way diminishes the value of continuance. A number of the people that I saw the other evening DID stay the path, did continue and it was a blessing for them, and I celebrate that beauty in their lives. They had the good fortune to either stay altogether in town or leave and then return. This sustained continuance allowed them to continue the pathways of their lives and, as a result, they were able to maintain many the friendships and relationships that they first started in High School, if not earlier.
For me, life took a circuitous path with many twists and turns along the way, like Crystal Cave, and I moved to many cities, met new people, and had new experiences, only to have them diminish once I moved away. Immediacy is a powerful companion, and it strengthens the ley lines in our lives when we look at them from a distance. Even when I stayed in the same place for a period, there were a fair share of changes that came my way.
My religious path offered perhaps the most consistency of anything in my life and I found great solace and purpose in that. It was an unexpected gift that has kept on giving. It has become, through practice, a rather large part of who I am. Or perhaps I should say I have become a rather large part of what it is.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I came to the reunion. As I was walking in, someone asked me if I was part of the band, which made me smile. I wondered if I would be recognized and whether I would remember people.
Which brings me to “return”. Our lives are full of cycles and some are larger, and some are smaller. Considering that these events happen once every five years and that I hadn’t been to one in quite some time, this return was perhaps a bit overdue.
It was obvious in watching the people around me that many people had stayed in close contact over the years and honestly, I was touched to see the bond that continuance forms between people. We shared good times and bad times, intimate times, stressful times, and all the gamut of human experiences for a four-year period and here were a few people who had kept that proximity going, even when their own lives were keeping them busy with work, with families, and with life.
I hadn’t been back to the local area in a few years. With the passing of my father and my mother moving further north, there wasn’t really a reason to come back. I stopped at the mausoleum where my father’s body lies, and I was glad that I did that return, although I know his spirit moved on a while ago. Touching his marble headstone was a sign of that particular return.
Things looked different and rather foreign, and I had the same feeling that I experienced in prior returns, when I came back to the area and went down familiar streets and familiar haunts only to find that we were strangers to each other over time. Somethings stay in the same location, but as we move through life, we inevitably change.
Yet, this reunion, this return, was a joy to behold. I spoke with most people, many to say “hello”, others to listen to their stories and experiences. I appreciate the intimacy of such exposure because it suggests that the continuance which we did not share can be obtained and maintained for that brief five-hour period and offer hope for continued correspondence in the future.
I know that some of these people will not be at the next reunion, due to circumstance or just the turning of the wheel of life. I may be one of them, although I pray that I may be there. I wish I could have spent more time with people to hear about their lives, to share some of mine, and to tap into that continuance which was rekindled after a long absence. In some ways, it was coming full circle, or perhaps, full cycle.
When it was time to go, I looked around to embrace that moment, that brief, fleeting period where continuance and return coincided, blended, and made a memory that I hope to cherish for some time. As I drove away, swallowed by the night and the road, returning to a path more familiar, I relished for the moment that our paths mingled once again, joined around eight tables, like eight spokes around the wheel of the year, and shared the warmth of friendship and timelessness, together.