The other day I thought about all the people with whom I have been friends or with whom I have worked in my life. After a while, I felt dizzy. There are literally hundreds of them, scattered all over the countries and cities I have listed above, but for all intents and purposes, I have lost contact with nearly all of them. Of course, this is to be expected; after all, most of these relationships were circumstantial - locked within the boundaries of place and time - and it is only natural that they ended once the place and time supporting them dissolved. Still, I do not chalk up any of these past relationships, not even the most trivial of acquaintances, to happenstance. No, they were all meaningful to some degree, but this meaning remained confined within the spatiotemporal conditions that gave birth to them and survive now only as memories, filed away in categories like "I once . . ." and "used to."
Yet, I established deeper connections with some, connections that bled beyond the borders of being in the same place at the same time. Established understandings and appreciations. The meeting of kindred spirits. Adventures and agonies. Helpers and teachers and guides of every shape and form. The people who made an impact or whom I impacted. Naturally, there were efforts to keep the connection strong once the place-time stage fell away, but the flood of emails and letters inevitably dwindled to a trickle and then, one day, simply dried up. I am mostly to blame for this, because I was the one who perpetually had suitcase in hand and was constantly wet-fingering the sky to gauge the changes in the wind. StilI, I assumed the deeper commerce I had established with some during my travels and sojourns would survive - that we would maintain bridges rather than merely cast stones into the rushing water, but it was not to be.
Is it even possible to truly lose touch anymore in this age of interconnectedness? In this world where everything and everyone can be located and researched through a few simple clicks? All the means to stay in touch are there at our fingertips. Maintaining contact has never been easier, which means the barriers we erect, the drift we refuse to halt cannot be assigned to anything technical. Yes, laziness and perceived relevance plays a part, but I sense something deeper behind it all.
Most relationships have a natural beginning and an end and continue to exist in memory as positive experiences, ones that could instantly rekindled if the proper circumstances came together. But the end of some positive friendships eventually leads to bitterness and confusion. Time and distance alters perspective. People change. People estrange. Painful moments when the familiar ices over and is replaced by the alien. Revelations of people no longer being who they were or who they are supposed to be. A subtle sense of treachery underscores it all - the bitter sense of betrayal, of being played for the fool. I imagine I have inflicted this upon many. "What happened? No, no, that is not the person I knew. That cannot be him. And if that is now him, then I cannot conceive, nor can I proceed." And they withdraw their pens and the offender, in this case me, is written off, relegated to the realm of unsalvageable. And yes, I have engaged in this myself in the past because it is as easy and swift as triggering a guillotine, which is why I bear no grudge or bitterness against those who have likely written me off over the years. Clean breaks make for neater lives. Regardless, I have concluded that writing off people is anything but useful or astute if it goes beyond merely accepting that what once was will never again be.
I have faith in this - every person who has played a role in the stage that is my mortal life has brought something meaningful with them, something I was meant to learn. I have realized I cannot write anyone off, not even those whom I regard as enemies. Writing off people becomes dangerous practice when it becomes a means through which to render them meaningless and insignificant, which is a denial of reality, because everyone, even the lowest and most unassuming, are meaningful and significant. At best, this form of writing off is callous mockery; at worst, it is colder than hatred because it signifies the desire to relegate people into non-being.