Opening doors and closing them, both physically and metaphorically is all we do in life.
Before there was this medium in which to wax nostalgic, I was simply concerned only with what was going on with myself, my immediate family and those with whom I worked closely. For many years, that’s all it was. That’s all it had to be. Oh, I knew there was a world full of other human beings out there, but I wasn’t mindful of what was going on with them. Their joys, their sorrows, their inner thoughts, their rantings, their wisdom. They would shout their opinions into the wind, but it was just undecipherable whispering to me. I cared not because I knew not.
Upon entering into this unknown means of communication, I first sought out family, then old school friends, whom I had lost contact with. It was fun catching up with them, finding out what had happened in the last forty years. Drawing close to them again through common experiences and causes…sometimes agreeing on things, sometimes not. Thus is the way of human beings. We all have things in common, we all have differences.
In the last several years the differences have sometimes gotten so extreme that they cannot be solved “online”. A different “wild card” was introduced into the system which polarized America. I have been “unfriended” even as recently as this past month by kinfolk with who political differences couldn’t be reconciled. I have unfriended some people who I grew up with, because of some of the things they “post” I probably should have just ignored it all. I know I should have. I’m just not as good a person as I should be though, and sometimes I am too quick to hit the “goodbye” button and regret it later on.
I still see a lot of these people out in the “real” world and we speak and get along, and nobody ever mentions Facebook. Others take it quite personally however, and will turn and walk away if they see me coming. I have sent out friend requests to all of the people I have unfriended over the years and some come back and we are “friends” again. Some patently ignore my request and I know they are sitting there saying: “burn me once shame on you, burn me twice…shame on me” I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be from now on. The world of electronic friendships and relationships has fundamentally changed the way humanity interacts. You can’t cross back over some of the bridges you burn. A lot of them can be repaired with enough work, but some of them you just don’t feel like putting that work into the repairs. It’s just not worth it, because I know I will never change, and a lot of the people who I have known in my life never will change either. There’s no use in doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. After all, that’s the definition of insanity, isn’t it?
Strangely, during these years, I began to become friends with people who I never knew before but who were friends with one of my friends. My relationship with people began to branch out beyond my little circle. I have become friends with people who have and hold the same beliefs and philosophies which I hold, and some who do not. I have met some people because of this medium and hold them in high regard and really, genuinely care about them, and through them, their loved ones. I have an artist friend with his beautiful Foxhound, my flea market friend with the same last name, and his wonderfully talented family. The former English professor of one of my lawyer friends. Another professor of biology who is a genius and writes complex biology textbooks. A wonderful, giving friend from New York who shares my love of photography. A cousin I never knew of before, who is my political consultant, and a wonderful family man. A friend who is a former librarian who lives just up on the mountain, who has a beautifully located home, and has many of the same interests. My scientist friend who is the son in law of one of my best FB friends. Several LGBTQ friends. On and on I could go…Many, many more.
I have branched out through these friends of friends, to their friends and relatives and have come to care for many of them. I have lost several. A wonderful teacher friend who fought cancer tooth and nail with singular focus, who finally and tragically succumbed to it. An Alabama friend, cousin of one of my other Alabama friends who was super close to me in philosophy of life, although he was about 10 years older than me. Whenever I would post a photo of Lookout mountain, he would remark about how he had spent 50 years on the “western” side of the mountain looking at it with a different view. He too, succumbed to cancer after a long fight.
I have many old friends who have reintroduced themselves back into my life…who I knew closely in my teenage years. Others who I knew marginally as I was growing up, but who have become close friends in the past few years. My librarian friend up near Nashville, a son of one of my friends who I went to school with…who grew up with MY oldest son. So on and so forth.
Growing closer in friendship again with many old friends through empathy and sympathy with their familial situations. Common likes…My old college buddy caving, photographer friend and his wife, who was my wife’s roommate and best friend in college. My UGA fan buddies, my Vegan and vegetarian friends. I could go on. I guess I’d better stop though.
I guess the most important thing is that for the most part, I love people. I really do. Even though differences can sometimes be extreme, I still love those people.
I love good discussions where if everyone doesn’t agree, we at least can have our opinions and be civil with each other (though I have NO tolerance for those who cannot be civil, and resort to name calling or vulgarity)
I love seeing the love that others have for their family and friends, and the photos of them they post showing their love. Their expressions of love for their family, and their thoughtful and loving posts many times touch me deeply.
There are many who would use this medium to spread their lies and their hate. Let’s not allow them to take over what could be, and had been up until then last several years, a positive thing. Don’t share one sided hate “memes” just to have something to post. Think before you do it “will this cause harmony or discord?” If you want to post a page at least put a little preamble of your own words on it to let others know your purpose in sharing. If you have an opinion on something, use your own words. Don’t let others who are extremists use you as a tool. I’ve been guilty but I’m honestly trying to do better!
Love not hate. Empathy and sympathy, not empty feelings. We can use all things for the good of others if we only pause to think, to consider, to put ourselves in the shoes of others for a few miles before we judge.
We now have a pandemic to try and continue to negotiate, and many, many challenges which go along with that. It will be harder to solve these things if we continue to hate and not help.
Peace to you all.