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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32 comments… read them below or add one

Kristina May 7, 2013 at 3:26 am

Wow…. this is a spectacular post. I relate to it on so many levels that I could write a small blog post of my own in your comments section, but I’ll try to exercise some restraint. One thing — present truths are more interesting than childhood stories, so not having a bunch of old tales stored up isn’t much of a deficiency.

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D.J. Paris May 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

Thank you to one of my most loyal readers!!!

I think you’re right. I just am bummed that the funny things that happened in my past are mostly gone by now. I had some good ones like the time I stabbed a drifter back in 1988.

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Robin May 7, 2013 at 4:18 am

Thank you for a lovely post.

Anyone with that kind of insight is a gem…and, a lot of times it is the person we are least likely to suspect. Angels unaware, and all that…

You really need to read this book: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
(by Greg Boyle)
I think you would really appreciate it.

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D.J. Paris May 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

Wow – thanks, Robin!

I will check out the book!

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Mothers little hleper May 7, 2013 at 4:19 am

Insightful post. Made me think about intimacy and relationships…….especially as I struggle to trust

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D.J. Paris May 7, 2013 at 9:15 am

Just remember that trust is earned, and takes time to develop. But it also requires risk on your part. That’s why relationships with pets aren’t super-fulfilling. There’s no risk of them hurting you. :)

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Robin May 7, 2013 at 4:20 am

In fact, I would like to send one to you…feel free to use it as a prize, if it is not for you…

but, I have several extra copies, as I gave them a Christmas gifts.

Is there a PO Box, or something…

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D.J. Paris May 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

I’ll get my own copy, BUT – maybe we’ll do a giveaway for the blogathon I’m doing to raise money for bandbacktogether.

Thanks for being so generous!!!!

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Andrea May 7, 2013 at 5:42 am

Great post. The older I get, the more I do see God in my relationships. Relating to each other is what we were made to do, after all.

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D.J. Paris May 7, 2013 at 9:17 am

Agreed – thanks for reading Andrea!

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Emelie May 7, 2013 at 9:38 am

This is a fantastic post. I love what your friend had to say about God’s presence. I think that relationships are the single most important part of life. I’m blessed to have a found a wonderful community within my group of friends, while also having a great family to lean on. Just last night, my sister, her husband, and I were discussing this over dinner. The most amazing conversations aren’t with people you agree with or disagree with about your beliefs, but they’re with the people you’re able to be the most vulnerable with – especially if they’re vulnerable with you.

Thanks for the reflection :)

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D.J. Paris May 8, 2013 at 11:45 am

Vulnerability is the key! It’s scary, but rewarding! Well said!

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V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios May 7, 2013 at 9:51 am

I have made nearly all the major decisions in my life based on relationships. They’re what drive me. I don’t have a remarkable number of friends but the friends I have are remarkable.

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Jessica Nettles May 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

I think living in the moment is a very valuable asset to have, even as a storyteller. People who spend their time in the past get kind of dull after a while. They miss those glowing electric moments of the now. Someone I was very close to once told me that he love how I was completely present in moments, particularly intimate moments. That made me extremely happy.

I also believe that God lives in those moments between people. If all we really have are relationships, I’m okay with that. I enjoy the close friendships I have with others. I enjoy those moments when true intimacy is reached (this is not as often as I would like, but maybe that makes those moments more treasurable).

I also have trust issues, and you are right, trust takes time and energy and must be earned. That’s where a lot of people trip up. They want to get close way too soon, or they take my ability to open up about parts of my life (they read my blog or FB) as an open invitation to assume intimacy that has not yet been built. This is something I’m struggling with presently. I try to be open, but it’s hard when people want to push beyond what I can handle.

Any way, great, powerful post. It has given me some things to consider.

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Katjaneway May 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

Very nice post. Your opinion is much appreciated and truly helpful. I am also forgetful. I always joke that my memory is taken up by remembering lyrics to songs lol. It’s strange the things I do remember compared to the things that I don’t. I’ll be able to recall things like a storyline from a show, but not what someone told me yesterday. I can remember a patient’s name from 2 years ago, but not what I ate 2 days ago. I often forget what people tell me, even when it’s typed out and saved. (this is why I blog. I need a journal for my horrible memory!) But, something that I know does work, is a version of sound recall. Every so often I will have a life event happen, and during said life event I could be listening to a new song (which I enjoy on eternal repeat for a good week), and suddenly, every time I hear that song in the future, it will remind me of that life event. It’s a neat, if unintentional, trick.

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Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom May 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

Beautiful piece DJ. My problem is that sometimes I have too much recall. I over think and analyze the past. It’s kind of a gift to be forced to live in the moment because its so easy to get caught up in everything else and miss the important here and now.

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Craig McBreen May 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Heck, my wife and I watch each G of T episode twice and we are reading the books … it’s still hard to keep track of it all ;) Not sure how George RR Martin did it.

Poor, old Theon, huh?

Anyway, relationships and family is what it’s all about. And I’m always reminding myself to simply enjoy each moment.

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Spanish Kitchenette May 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm

First time reading your blog. Honestly, Iread book, blogs and all that falls in my hands and it was too long since I read such good post. You’ve got a new reader and, of course: thanks for sharing.

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dk May 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm

No man is an island, what. Your post brings to mind the idea of “maya” sanskritfor “not” “that”, or “illusion”. Where the illusion is that we are separate from the cosmos, where in fact we are infinitely and if we are lucky, intimately connected.

To me relationships are the interconnectors , the axis mundii of human life, like the sticks in tinkertoys, and every connection or disconnection changes who we are.

The tinkertoy wheel with only one or two sticks sure looks lonely.

Me I want to be in the middle of a chaotic hodge podge of wheels and sticks and will use cheese to make extra connectors if I run out..

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Becky Sangha May 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Great article, from the heart… very well written. I am curious as to what happened to your friend. Thanks for sharing

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Lil May 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm

That was beautiful, DJ.

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D.J. Paris January 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Thanks, Lil!!!
D.J. Paris recently posted…I Just Responded to 200 Blog Comments

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Leah L May 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Thank you for this post. It’s my 1st impression of you and I like it. I love the thought of God in relationships, as it makes more sense than any religion out there. Very interesting and thought provoking. Nice to meet you, my new friend!

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gina May 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm

well said and beautifully experienced.

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D.J. Paris May 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thank you Gina!!!

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Denene Millner May 8, 2013 at 7:20 am

This is so very beautiful. Thank you.

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D.J. Paris May 8, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks, Denene! I appreciate you reading!

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Terri May 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I’ve always been amazed at the big lessons we get in life from the most unlikely of people. Just today I heard a man say that his greatest lessons in life came from his small children. Sometimes I think the most innocent among us is the closest to God.

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celtiarose May 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I truly appreciated this post, especially the thought that maybe all we really have are relationships. I work in a charter school… my students are from a terribly rough neighborhood, and most of them don’t eat on a regular basis once they leave our walls. I’ve learned that relationships make the difference for the children I have invested my life with, and although that is a departure from the focus of your piece, I also see a deep connection.

And, thinking of Game of Thrones, my husband and I have read the books and still watch the series with wikipedia up and running for all those details we’ve forgotten or need to revisit… you are not alone!

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Cecille May 9, 2013 at 4:17 am

“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 agree with this one….Nice post!

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Jaclyn May 9, 2013 at 7:35 am

Oh my God, I can completely relate. I have the worst memory of anyone I know, and it’s very well known within my circle. It actually freaks me out that my childhood just seems mostly like a black hole of blur. The worst is conversations. I might remember the gist of what we talked about but you must be on crack if you think I remembered the specifics of what you told me. (My fiancé often uses this to his advantage re: arguments. Crafty bastard. He’s lucky I adore him.)

I’ve been blogging on and off for years now but have had trouble finding what works best for me. And you know, the whole building readers debacle. Obviously my previous inconsistency was winning me prizes. (Would love to hear more about how you grew your readership so well! Pretty please??). My newest baby is all about my crazy life adventures and what’s happening now (ZuJewLife.com). I’m definitely finding it easier to write about myself and stuff that comes up in the present moment.

Oh PS. Found you through Twitter! Yay! ‘The Twitter’ and I have never really gotten on all so well but we’re working on our relationship. ;)

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Andie July 24, 2013 at 3:06 am

Wow, this couldn’t have been better stated. This is so relevant to what is going on in my life.

Don’t feel bad about GoT. At least you didn’t decide to wait until Season 3 to start watching like I did. It’s another thing that makes me happy we have the internet so we can look that shit up!

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