Tuesday, August 10, 2010


“No value to me.” That’s what he said as I approached with my store of the steps I’d taken to reach him. He sat stolid, immovable. We once had been boys together; toiled side by side at lessons, books, on the playing fields, and under the masters. And now, he on his pinnacle of immutability, his right to make decisions for himself, his private reasons for disassociation, or even his ineluctable intractability brought out not necessarily by his own wants but by the dictates of his purveyance, his vocation, his location, gives him licence to be dismissive? Would that he said something of regret, but, “no value”?

Obligation is an awful feeling. We are each obliged to be at the meeting place, the crossroads, the bifurcation point, the intersection, the wedding of time and space; it is incumbent upon being human, a necessity of being part of the whole. But obligation engenders in us a different reaction to that of an accidental meeting; it requires of us a conscious presence however unconscious we may prefer in the moment to be. For it is a degree of consciousness that has us evaluating and judging and approving and disliking the moment sufficient to feel obliged in the first place. So we despise the family gathering, the birthday party, the celebration of precepts and concepts and concomitance that is not of our own accord. Obligation takes the ‘me’ of the moment and requires my ego to be sublimated to the needs of others. Moreover, it often dictates that I come attired in garb uncomfortable, unusual, or unnecessary to my everyday practice. Obligation expects if not demands the monetary contribution, the gift, the bottle of wine, the card, the smile, the pretence, the in-authenticity of chatter and light-hearted matter and polite but inane pleasantries that skim the surface of time and space. Yes, obligation is awful; until I care.

In caring I loose the sense of me to the welfare of others. In caring I loose the interest in myself to an interest in others. I do not lose! In caring I find myself entertained, invigorated, freed, and connected. And so the obligation of the event of our meeting becomes not about me, but about the other. That Christmas gathering, that birthday party, that graduation event, that office meeting, that forty year reunion; they all become part of the vicissitudes of valuing life as it is, as it was, as it will be. Caring practices integration, meta-cognition, giving.

We bring the past to each other cupped in our hearts as a thing of unique value to ourselves, for apart from the commonalities of being human, the marriage, the job, the children, the hopes and dreams, we each have a story of the whole that no other can have fully seen. And we bring the present to each other in a spirit of camaraderie, friendship, gratitude for each other’s interest, and a sense of contributing to the care of the whole. It will add to the future, to this meeting, to this offering up of the moment, obliged or not, provided that we care.

As the song might have sung it: “Regrets, I have a few, but then again too many to mention.” Well, at the very least, one may send regrets; but to deem our reunion of no value? A pity.


  1. The Universe did not wait for me to be born, my parents did. 40 years did not pass just so I may meet again with that same random mix of people, the PBHS class of 1970.
    My life is infused with 40 thousand other lives and when "he" says that is "of no value" I know he is wrong because I learn from all of the travellers I meet. Perhaps he has learnt nothing.

    1. And still we have richness, more than a year later, and have given others richness too; what great value to us all!


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