A Dear Friend and a Dazzling Inner Light
What does a meaningful friendship look like and do you value it when it comes along?
The chance to chat with a dear friend I met twenty years ago is an opportunity I always savor. His very reflective way of looking at the world always gives me pause, acts as a lightning rod to reignite my belief in my inner reservoirs of strength. As often happens when we meet, we had a really lovely chat. We sat casually on a wooden bench outdoors in the hope-giving environs of a college campus in early spring, with birds singing merrily and Frisbee being played on the lush, green grass. As I absorbed the warmth of his compassionate company and we engaged in soulful conversation, it amazed me how time continues to march on, how the difference in our ages becomes more apparent as he approaches his 80th year and I settle into the prospect of my 40th. Suddenly the opportunities for connection don’t seem to stretch out before me with no tangible end. No, time’s tick becomes louder in my ear as I try to dredge the depths of his wisdom and capture the pearls to aid the trajectory of my journey.
He is dear to me, but our time in one another’s presence seems very fleeting, ephemeral, like a reprieve from the monotony that sometimes creeps into the routine of the everyday. He reminds me that every moment is sacred, but alas, I still sometimes forget, still need reminding from his gentle soul to step carefully ahead and to absorb the import of the moment. Will the reminders he has so generously provided be enough to see me through the decades I might still have ahead, the decades that might not include his treasured presence? I wish to think that I’ve embedded the most potent pieces of his advice not simply in my grey matter but in the very bedrock of my heart. But I’ve learned there is no steeling against loss, no preparing for the inevitable, no shoring up defenses so as to never be hurt or harmed. To erect a wall so high that no one can reach across and extend a hand in friendship and kindness seems to miss the point of life. Believe me, my sensitive spirit has tried to hunker down more than once. Even when my mind has thought I am alone, my heart seemed to know otherwise, still sensing the divine in all things, still urging me toward another uninhibited dance with the mysteries and wonder and heartbreak of life.
If my steadfast friend has taught me anything, and indeed he’s taught me much, he’s gifted to me the knowledge that my beauty and spirit are a once-upon-the-earth phenomenon and that is not to be taken lightly. The complexities and joys of our singular friendship would not be quite what they are, would not have had the same genesis, had I been of a different character, had my personality been otherwise. In a media-saturated world always trying to convince us that who we are would be better with a little tweaking, when even those close to us like to remind us what a 2.0 version of ourselves could accomplish, it has been beyond sweet to be cradled in a sacred space of love and compassion and care that, though imperfect, provides a respite from the world’s critique and the subsequent self-critique, a respite that has been nothing short of transformative and healing. And yet, in grasping toward that respite, it is so easily lost. The only sound course of action seems to be expression of gratitude for each opportunity for presence, for each infinitesimal moment of understanding, for every calming hug, for every word spoken with the other close enough to hear it. In a friendship as rich as ours, a moment can mean so much, can sustain when the darkness of life’s challenges begins to creep across the floor and shadow the light of life’s joys. Indeed, a moment of deep connection can illumine my own, divinely-supplied wells of strength and purpose.
In being human, we are always butting up against a sense of limitation, limitation that is writ large in the reality of mortality. It has been said that youth is wasted on the young, for they do not know what they do not know and often have a hubristic sense of invincibility they will always be, always exist, never fade. However, as the years continue to add to the abacus of my life, the tiny wooden beads being pushed toward the side of the ledger that reads “Already Lived,” I have long-since relinquished a sense of being invulnerable to time and circumstance and accident. I know the flesh I cherish is vulnerable and mortal, but somehow that seems to heighten the sense of breathless beauty and the exquisite magic of my life. The nature of human existence is beyond my control, the law of decay inherent in biology out of my hands, but the impetus to live with integrity and to love with my whole being are within my grasp. So, to spend a lovely day with an old friend, discussing what doors we might yet open for ourselves in our respective lives, seems to me time well used, a slice of live well lived, a hat tip to the sands that rush toward the bottom of the hourglass that encompasses the allotted grains of my life’s moments. It is in this intimate geography of souls that wondrous beauty between two seekers becomes emergent, a brilliant light a million times more intense than any screen portal to the virtual world. It is in this hallowed shining of friendship’s grace upon my life that I am reminded of the abiding, absorbing beauty of my own intensely dazzling light.