LIVING WITH GRIEF AND GLEE

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, c. A.D. 150

We now have a deeply divided Republic with front-page headlines declaring we’re now living in grief or glee. I do feel the grief and glee seems way too far off.

I’m trying to comprehend the makeup of those who voted for Trump. I know for sure Mr. KKK Duke is ecstatic but what percentage of Trump’s supporters are truly fearful and angry and were wrestling with life with little or no dancing for years when they made their votes.

What is there to do about the split? How close do we have to draw near to those on the other side? I still think it will call for one-on-one bonding with outsiders. Perhaps we have continued to merely wrestle with how to survive on this planet. I have struggled for decades with the notion that the only way to survive in this world is to risk running deep one-on-one with total strangers. For some reason we tend to rely on communal bonds exclusively whether they are family, friends or faith communities.

What if we are not meant to bond communally with little or no contacts with strangers? We now are learning that engaging with strangers instantly is an innate function, an evolutionary gift that generates immediate unconditional trust. It might be an inherent feature that keeps us from forming divisions.

Is it possible that the beginnings of marriages and friendships do not trigger instant trust? Extended ties may take longer to run deep?

Bonding with those we don’t know so well can run deep. Over the last few years I have been ordering take-out hot tea at a donut shot, no donuts, honest. When the presidential campaign began Jim, a retired Marine in his late 70s, began holding forth in the shop with six conservative old codgers at the counter. He learned from the owner that I was rather liberal. A few in the crew often nodded when I came in but after the election got heated up the nods stopped and I could feel the tension among them.

A few days before the election Jim stepped up to me rather sternly and said “Let’s step outside.” He was a Marine Vietnam combatant and I was a puny Naval Reservist at that time. I figured he was going to take a swing at me but then he always seemed gruff from a distance.

He stood quietly for a time, dropped his head a bit and said “My wife died six months ago and my step-kids are kicking me out of the house. We need to talk.”

There will be plenty of walls in our divided country in the future but there may be those surprising moments when two guys will suddenly bond and it will feel like a miracle.

Without that instant trust we will likely live with more wrestling and less dancing.

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