When You Meet Someone

When You Meet Someone November 11, 2014

I just saw that the movie Sideways was on TV. I loved the movie when I saw it in the theaters. I think I have the DVD. The film’s always stuck with me though I haven’t seen it in a decade. Below is the key part of the scene that stuck with me the most (the lead up portion of the scene is here):

Ever since I saw this scene it has led me to regularly meditate on the temporality of all our relationships. We ordinarily think of the people we know as the people we know without dwelling on how much about how we relate to them and understand them is influenced by exactly where we each happen to be in our lives when we’re in each other’s lives. Had I met my professor as a colleague or as my student how different would it be? Or reversing it, had I met my student as my professor or as my lawyer or at a party when they were my age, how different would we be to each other?

Or what if I met some person in a bar as a stranger or introduced as a friend’s partner or as a clerk in a store? What if this person and I had grown up together? What if we had crossed paths first at 5, at 9, at 18, at 27, at 36, at 45, at 54, etc. What if we interacted as patient and medical professional? What if they met me at my lowest moment or at my highest? What if we spent our teens together and drifted apart or discovered each other in our sixties? What if we traversed decades together or just happened to spend one wordless flight seated next to each other, or spent just one day hitting it off and then never saw each other again. Where you leave off with someone matters too. Just think of how frozen in a particular time and place someone from your past can be while someone else only knows them as the present. And someone yet still will only discover them as old and gray and hard to conceive of as young.

Or could you imagine being Marty McFly and meeting your mom or your dad, each of you as teenagers? What about if you got to be friends as parents in your thirties at the same time?

Each of our selves, at every point in time, is in flux. Our selves are constructed by our history to that point and our present circumstances, and even at any given moment of time they are fluctuating across numerous roles and relationships we inhabit. And that means we are a different person to discover depending not only on when we meet each other but on how. How we see each other and connect to one another hinges not only on where I am but on where you are. There might be enmity meeting one way where there would be the deepest of friendships meeting another way.

Since I spend a lot of time thinking about deconversions, I always marvel at just how many of my readers and my friends were still Christians deep into my atheist years—even after I started this blog. I sometimes long for a way to know what it would have been like to be Christians with them. I sometimes wish we could experience the argument too. Either me as a believer and they as the atheist or vice versa. And some of the people I feel the most profound bond with are those I really was a believer with and really am now an atheist with. People who I could relate to on both sides of ourselves, who lived through two contrasting eras the same.

Isn’t it amazing, whoever you are reading this–whether we only know each other through this medium or know each other in many ways or still might some day in the future–to think of just how many different ways you and I might have discovered or known each other were the wrinkles of time and place just a little bit different?

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