Connections Are Forever
Every human connection we make remains with us forever.
We cannot annul it. We cannot go back in time and make it vanish. We cannot put it aside, pretend it is not there, or even delete it from our memory. We may attempt to do any of these, but we will fail. Even if we manage to forget all traces of a human connection we have made in the past, we cannot delete the effect it has had on us. Just as all the events of our lives have shaped our being – even if we have forgotten most of them – every human connection we have made in our lives has had an effect on us.
Our childhood friend whom we have not seen in forty years is still here with us, his influence affecting us in some small or large manner through the invisible threads of the common experiences that critically defined our tender youth. The person who gave us our first comic book that inspired our imagination and refined our humor, or the one who taught us how to build a kite from simple materials and to aim for the sky – both at first seemingly insignificant events – have subtly modified the path we ended up following in our life. We may not see any of these people again, but our connections are still there, apparently invisible, yet palpable in the makeup of who we are.
But our human connections do not subsist just because they have happened in the past. We are emotional and mental beings. The connections we formed with people are presently alive, consciously or subconsciously, in the chambers of our heart, in the labyrinth of our memory. Even if the connections are forgotten in some obscure corner of our mind, a small trigger suffices to reactivate them and prove that they had never truly disappeared. A call or a letter from an old friend may light up moments, experiences, emotions from our past: suddenly we realize that the connection we formed years ago still resides within us somehow. We may not be sure how to react, we may feel awkward and weird, because this old friend seems to belong to a world we left behind long ago. But this is not so. We have never truly “left that world behind.” If we had done so, how could it suddenly be brought back into memory to form a mental contrast with our present life? Even for the comparison to happen, the “old world” must still be within us – hence the awkwardness, the unease at rediscovering it! What we considered to be a dead connection is actually alive, albeit dormant. It is this dormancy that makes us believe it has disappeared. But this is an illusion. Like live embers beneath the ashes of last night’s fire, all the human connections we have ever created are slowly burning in the deepest recesses of our being.
Many tend to group their human connections into three main categories: those of love, indifference, and dislike. There are gradations among these: friendly love, strong love, passionate love; mild indifference, complete indifference; dislike due to envy, hurt feelings, even dislike that may turn into hatred. We sometimes see a once loving couple divorce and have their feelings turn into bitterness and animosity. Or we see a good friend who feels hurt by our actions hit back and destroy a decade-long friendship in a split second. However, if we examine such situations carefully, we discover that the seeming “rupture” in the connection has not truly occurred. The love may have turned into vengeful anger, poisonous envy, or hatred. Yet the connection is still there, facing us through the anger or envy or hatred. Some people follow more closely the lives of the people they envy or hate than those of the people they love. In such situations, the bond of hatred may be said to constitute an even stronger connection than the left-behind bond of love. The connection has not dissipated, simply changed form. We soon realize that we cannot “get rid” of the people who have crossed (and are constantly crossing) our lives, not even by forcefully cutting them off from us!
Realizing that our human connections remain with us forever is transformative. It makes us approach each of these connections more mindfully and with a sense of responsibility. Since connections are here to stay, we might as well have the right attitude and contribute towards their constantly changing character in a more purposeful manner. Would we rather have a connection of animosity or of love? Can we truly feign disinterest in the life of our once best friend, just because our lives followed different paths? Should we be indifferent to possible reconnections with old friends or acquaintances? What about all the new potential connections that lie around us?
This last question brings us to the attitude we ought to have toward those connections we have not yet formed: We are alone at a café, someone sits at the table next to us. Do we smile and engage, or do we choose to be indifferent? We may desire alone time, we may not feel like socializing. But yet again, what if this person is the most interesting person we will meet this year? What if he is a great poet who has just completed his masterpiece, which he is willing to share with us? What if he is a wise man who will tell us something that will change our life forever? The moment we think of such possibilities, we realize that we are already forming a mental or emotional connection with this unknown person. Can we truly be indifferent? This person, by physically crossing our life’s-path, has presented a kind of unique connection we cannot ignore. For, as I wrote in Monumental Encounters, out of the seven billion people on the planet, and the innumerable ones who have ever lived, Fate has brought us next to this specific person at this juncture of Space and Time. Being open to receiving the gifts this unknown person bears with him, and being ready to form a new connection, is not only natural, but the most rational of stances! In novels and short stories we read about such encounters that turn out to be monumental. Yet our real lives may be full of them. We simply need to be more open, more willing to venture into new and unexpected human connections.
This “unique fatefulness” of all of our encounters and subsequent connections, together with the fact that these connections are permanent, lies at the heart of all our relationships. With the understanding that every connection we make persists despite its constantly changing form, we should never cease to seek out the endless possibilities that lie within it.