How is your relationship?
Is your relationship like a soup (melting pot) or like a blanket (with distinct colors woven into a well-defined space and pattern)?
Today, I attended a life celebration service – a funeral service, but more in the spirit of celebration. This was for a long time professional friend/colleague, that I came across about 31 years ago. He had a significant role in my getting a new job at that time, which ended up as 28 Year career for me! I lost touch with him for the past 26 years and today I attended the service in his honor as he passed away two weeks ago, at the age of 85. The church where the service was held is located about ten miles west of the town where I live in the New England region, USA.
There were about 250 people, all white. I was the only brown (or non-white). Besides the person who had deceased, I knew only one other person in this entire gathering! Yes, I am a successful, first generation immigrant well-integrated into the American fabric. Yet this integration is like the strands of rope of one color in a multicolored blanket. The colors are all there linked to each other, yet they remain distinct as well-defined patterns of the blanket! No one seemed to notice or care. But, I did have this feeling of separation from the rest.
This event reminded me of another event that happened on Sep. 13th, 2001. I was at Hamburg, Germany for a business visit on that infamous day of 9/11. The whole world had been shaken by that tragedy and the horrific act of terrorism. All the air traffic to USA had been cancelled and I had been stranded at Hamburg. To cope with the tragedy, the locals had organized a prayer service at a local church. My friend (a white American) and I (South Asian American) decided to attend this service. We needed to do something to cope with our emotions as well. The service seemed as the appropriate event to attend. As it turned out, I was the only non-white in the gathering. Again, nobody seemed to care. If there were any glare at me, I did not notice either. But, I did have this feeling inside of me of separation from the rest.
The above set me thinking: Integration is a two-way process – how I feel about anything external to me and how do the external events (and signals) influence my thoughts and feelings.
Integration can also be like a soup, where all the ingredients come together (in a melting pot) creating a product of the same taste (same feelings) everywhere. It can also be like a blanket or a quilt, with many colors and shades well woven into tightly knit patterns.
Integration of many to create a single outcome is the essence of relationship. Yes, both the soup and blanket are integration of many to create a single outcome. But in the case of the soup the ingredients are intermingled and in-separable. In a blanket the ingredients remain distinct, retain their identity while contributing to a common purpose.
The same can be said of relationships – at work, with friends, family, etc. Do you become integral part of the relationship and are you permitted to become integral part of the larger whole? – like a soup? Do you remain distinct and distant from the rest and yet contribute to a common purpose – like the strands in a blanket of distinct colors?
The same can be said about faith – in each other, in God or in a larger order. Is the relationship between husband and wife, parents and children, among relatives, among friends, among neighbors like a soup or like a blanket? One of total and unquestioned integration or matters of trust but verify?
Life and its shaping is more than simple analogies of soup and blanket. In fact there are times when the relationship needs to be like a soup, while there are other times it needs to be more like a blanket. Total engagement – like a soup – without regard for its impact, may not desirable. Peripheral engagement – like a blanket – may remain superficial and surface level and hence may not bring forth the joys of total immersion or surrender. They could also pose challenges to confidence in the relationship at critical moments of crisis. Someone was hanging on to a bush at the edge of the cliff. He prayed to God and the answer came: “Let go off the bush”. He replied, “Is there another God out there”?
Is your relationship like a soup (melting pot) or like a blanket (with distinct colors woven into a well-defined space and pattern)? — exploring this question and the answers may be an aspect of Spirituality in Practice.