Are Relationships All We Have?

by D.J. Paris on May 6, 2013

One of my friends, named Hungry Joe, died about a year ago.

He was one of the most brilliant (maybe the) men I have ever met. I spent a considerable amount of time with him toward the end of his life. He was afflicted, most likely, with Aspergers. He had a difficult time communicating except through metaphor. For years (and I mean over a dozen), he slept on rooftops in Chicago without a real home. When my ex-wife asked him why he did that Joe said he was inspired by a character in a Dickens novel who did the same. Plus, he was broke.

Joe had translated, individually, each word of the New Testament from the original Greek text. He was convinced that all the previous scholars had got a bunch of important stuff wrong. A theologian put Joe’s life’s work out to the academic community and nobody could critique it because they couldn’t find anyone with the appropriate knowledge.

I remember him telling me once about the nature of God. He said, “I have a hard time envisioning a God looking down from above, omnipotent. It just doesn’t make sense to me. There’s too much bad crap out there.”

“…but… where I can see God, right here and now, is in between two people who love each other. There is magic standing in front of human relationships and it’s visible and crackles with life. That is God, and it makes sense to me.”

I’m paraphrasing but you probably get the idea.

That is the single greatest piece I had ever heard – and I didn’t even take to the religious angle. Whether God is real or not, there is undeniably magic between two people who love each other. It’s the juice, in my opinion.

When I reflect on what is ultimately important in my life I often think about relationships. People who have been there when I reached out. Just tonight a friend who is struggling thanked me for being present for her.

Maybe all we really have are relationships.

I am well-known among my friends as having a terrible memory. Despite the fact that I watch Game of Thrones  each week, I still need the wiki pulled up online to remind myself of the characters’ histories. I just don’t have a great recall system.

This means that I don’t store memories well. If I want to participate in life, all I have is the present. I can’t go back so I must try harder to be there when there is happening. This is hard work. Over the years I’ve become adept and being present. Being present has been the key to developing intimacy in my relationships. I went from never sharing my truth with people to having a core group who regularly talk about the hard shit. It’s scary, but it builds the relationship into something deeper and more fulfilling.

And the currency of relationships is intimacy, I believe.

Since intimacy is all about sharing what’s hard, being present is essential. Trust is essential. So is safety. These are all earned through risk. Do I trust this person enough to share what might get them to run away? Or worse, they could stay and hurt me. It happens. Mostly, if you’ve developed strong boundaries, you share with appropriate people. Intimacy grows and the relationships bonds tighter.

If God is nothing but what’s between two people, then I can see it. There’s sparks that fly when we’re vulnerable, honest, loyal, and present. I’m grateful to the people in my life that participate this way.

I don’t have a great ability to recall funny stories from my youth. I’m out of ‘em. This blog started because I thought I was a master storyteller. Truth is, I only had a dozen. And they’ve all been told by now.

So, now, it’s about what I’m experiencing. This is what I had today.

theon greyjoy

I can never remember why he’s being tortured. And he looks too much like Robb Stark!

image courtesy of HBO

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