Polar Opposites

One of the things that Karen and I try to take advantage of since moving to the Southeast again is visiting friends that we didn’t get to see while living in New England. We’re within a two-hour drive of many old friends in most cases, and we make every attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to visit them.

A couple of months ago, we went back to the city in Virginia where we met and married, and where we lived for some time after. We had a wonderful, if all too brief, weekend, in which we saw as many friends as we possibly could, as well as driving by the landmarks…the old apartments, old workplaces, the memories that accompany a life lived.

When we were planning our trip, we began organizing and arranging times to meet with our friends. Our closest friends sprang to the forefront of my mind, and I began contacting those who I was looking so forward to seeing again, some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in nearly two years, occasional social media interactions notwithstanding.

One of our close friends is an author and professor. He and I became friends while acting and directing in a theatre ministry at our local faith community. Theatre forms a sort of fox-hole experience. There are long nights, intense debates and emotions, and sets of experiences that no one who hasn’t been involved in practicing that particular creative pursuit can truly understand. This is a friend with whom I had spent the long hours and held the passionate debates, with whom I had celebrated the publishing of his book, and who had graciously read some of my own manuscripts. This is a friend whom I met at a restaurant in the wee hours of the morning for coffee when something tragic had just happened. His daughter would babysit our daughter. Even with distance between us, we’re close.

What’s surprising about this is that, in several ways, you couldn’t get more opposite than he and I are. Yes, we’re both odd creative types. He, however, is a scientist by day and at heart, and I have always been quite the opposite of that, immersed in the humanities. Politically, you really couldn’t imagine two more opposite perspectives, as he leans far to the right of my own views. He eschews Mac computers on principle, and I use them exclusively.

We regularly engage in Twitter banter that makes others assume we can’t stand each other, and yet we know that we have each others’ backs.

When I think of how opposite we are, I think of how some say that opposites attract, but, more importantly, about how, despite our polarizing differences, we’ve always respected each other, always known that we’ve had a friend in each other. We’ve seen what we’ve held in common more prominently than we’ve engaged our differences. I think that this is a standard to which I need to live up to more, something that only has good results. If I generalize this, after all, I become a kinder person, less prone to anger and frustration with others, less prone to bitterness that clings long after I wish it gone.

Sometimes there are insurmountable differences between two people. I’m not so optimistic or naive as to think that this isn’t sometimes the case. I think, however, that the things that we see as insurmountable are, in fact, often not. The minutiae of our theological bent, our political views, our subcultural associations…more of these than we care to admit are autobiographical preferences at the end of the day. I wonder how much less prone we would be to anger and violence…and how much more prone we might be to healing…if we took the time to focus on our similarities instead of becoming so increasingly, arbitrarily polarized.

Because I think that it takes both sides of many of these perspectives to form a holistic truth, perhaps one of which none of us are capable of realizing on our own.

Well, except for the part where some people don’t like Macs. That’s just wrong…

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