That iconic movie “The Big Chill” celebrated the lasting friendships emanating from time shared together in college. Of course the cause of the mini-reunion at the home of a Southern sporting shoe magnate was a sad one. An intelligent yet tortured classmate had taken his own life.
The thing that brought those friends together was sad indeed. The deep question dug at them: Why would anyone take their own life? The William Hurt character angrily dug at the answer, in essence saying, “Why shouldn’t we all take our own lives?”
Or so it seems. There also those life-affirming aspects of children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. There are anniversaries to celebrate, and life changes to encounter.
At the risk of behaving like the Jeff Goldblum character in the Big Chill, exploiting his friends’ reunion for a People Magazine story, this blog has traveled the path of reunion with my class from the year 1975. For me that association began with a dance. I’d met a friend who shared the same birthday that summer afternoon. We walked all the way to pick up another friend and showed up at a dance hall named The Powder Keg.
Our interest was meeting girls, or sharing time with girls. Or whatever encounters we could manage. My only real recollection of the night was being willing to dance. That distinction alone helped me meet some nice women. The New Kid In Town.
Somewhat scared but daring to dance out of sheer joy in music, I took a risk with reputation that first night. Not every guy loved to dance, that’s for sure. There were always those who chose such ventures to question masculinity. I was little more than a skinny cross country runner with thick hair and wire-rimmed glasses.
But it’s always been a philosophy to do new things and take chances. The hell with being a guy that was not willing to try. And so it was that some of my new friends happened to be girl friends. I came home thrilled and excited that night.
From there the social network took off. And yet it was a painful period as well. Moving to St. Charles had meant leaving behind good friends out at Kaneland High School as well. I’d been Class President there and leader of the cross country team.
Such is life that we are sometimes forced to grow into and out of friendships. Fortunately many of those former associations still exist. It is a philosophy that friends from school and work and life encounters should remain friends if at all possible. Some grow apart. Some disagree with my politics or tolerance for things they consider absent of moral consequence. But those choices are not made without consideration. The people one chooses to love are paramount to existence. If people can’t accept that love and friendship are realities with dimension they are the ones sacrificing good for selfish motives. All you can do is demonstrate your purpose. Find your spirit. Survive. Live. Thrive.
Some of the choices we make are necessarily made with such independence from social expectations there seems to be an entirely different music to which we are dancing. Those choices are small as a micron and as large as time itself. We give birth to our hopes any way we can. If people want to judge us for those choices, then there is no such thing as hope.
Yet hope certainly exists, and it is fostered in the glimmer of recognition. Our particular class grew up listening to the Beatles because that was the era in which that band literally changed the world. Then we migrated to the Stones and Neil Young and Frank Zappa, for God’s Sake. It turns out there were no rules to this dance at all. One dances to whatever tunes one likes, the world was telling us.
Of course that philosophy produces consequences. Our generation is blamed for the decay of society by some. Our experimentations with sex and drugs and rock and roll are called by some… the influences that broke down social standards and led to a reduction in “moral standards.”
What pap. Never mind the fact that liberalism whipped up courage to install real civil rights rather than sustain a fake society favoring one race over all, and one that cudgled women into subservient roles and closeted gay people on grounds that their lives are a sin or a lie. We said Fuck That and kept moving. We’re dancing here, God Damnit.
However imperfectly, as a collective we’ve stood up to those fake realities and made society a better place. Each one of our lives has mattered in that respect. You can dance alone for sure, and that is all good. But you can also participate in a dance that grows the very soul of the world. And that was our generation. Embrace it. Embrace each other. We still have lives to live.
It all begins with a dance and ends with a dance. Indeed some close friends, mostly women it seemed, moved onto the dance floor by night’s end and shared that space to the beat of the movement. I was tempted to join them, but also realized there would likely be more chances. Ours was a reunion that turned into a direction in life. The committee didn’t just put together an event, they created new bonds and respect for all those classmates who share that space and time. That’s the best kind of dance to join. The best kind of all.