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June 5, 2010

Being together

A few weeks ago I encountered a story of a woman who took her kids out of school so that the family could achieve the dream of travelling around the world by boat. The unintended gem of the story was her mentioning that felt her sons were better off for being pulled out. She bases this on two things:

  1. Before, the three boys constantly fought and bickered; after sharing a room on a boat for months, they had learned to be considerate of each other and even work as a unit.

  2. Before, the three boys had no interest at all in books, but faced with the option of staring at the sea for months on end, they all became voracious readers.

Saturday I ate lunch at my pastor’s house. He recalled when his three kids were small: they were living in Ohio, and his wife stayed home with the kids. They lived in the parsonage and he walked across the yard to his office in the church each day. There was a church school as well, and when the kids were school age they’d just run over to the school minutes before the homeroom bell. He mentioned these years as being formative and so very pivotal to the closeness his family has now as the kids hit puberty.

If I were to assess the entire seven years of dating, year of engagement, and nearly six years of marriage and decide the happiest and most important period it would be our time spent in South Korea immediately after our wedding. We were on the other side of the world—away from everyone and everything we could fall back on. Our building housed our work and church in addition to our apartment; there were weeks (winter) where we barely left the building. That intense proximity created a bond between us, as well as between the people who shared that proximity with us—enough to go back and visit Korea again years later.

Being together makes things better. Often, the frustration we experience with others stems from our desire to preserve “mine”; when the option (luxury, even) of privus is removed, it is startling to see how quickly unity—or at least unison—is achieved.

Talking with my sister on the plight of the single-and-looking, she mentioned how odd Fru and I are: so many people are running around trying to find their match before it’s too late, where Fru and I met early, stayed together and grew together (In a talk with a sauna buddy, I reflected that this can backfire—it may be impossible to replace a bespoke relationship fourteen years in the making).

But I digress. In this western world of disposable, single-serving, customized playlist, cubicled-yet-space driven living, we give ourselves little opportunity to develop the human mechanism for collaboration. Understand that every step we make towards uniqueness for all brings us closer to being our own individual species, and a species of one is virtually extinct.

River Rocks

Image via Wikipedia

A species persists precisely because its members work together to overcome the external pressures that threaten it. Cooperation and collaboration is not ideal, it is essential. Like the smoothing of river rocks, being together removes the dross of self and leaves the efficiency of us.

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