I’ve driven Daniel on three different occasions. The first time I took him into town. I don’t exactly remember where and I recall that he was going to hang out with friends. I think they were going rowing or some such activity. He seemed excited and a bit anxious as he was doing something he hadn’t done before.
The second time I took him to a local hospital. He was suffering from some un-diagnosed symptoms and was very anxious. There were some matters going on his life that were causing him a great deal of stress. My uninformed inference was that his body was “acting out” the churning he was contending with in some of his relationships, day-to-day purpose, and life in general. In looking back, I’d say he was in the middle of a multi-faceted transition and he was wrestling holistically with the ramifications of such change.
The last time we met and talked was when I picked him up from the Cincinnati State campus. It was kinda late at night this time around; yet, I recognized his voice and demeanor right away. It was terrific to catch up. Daniel indeed made some life-altering decisions about his career and relational paths. He really went through the grind, physically as well as spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. He also was kind enough to check in with me and see how I was doing. I too. like him, am (was) in the midst of many transitions. We therefore exchanged ideas, concerns, fears, desires, aspirations. I told him about my upcoming marriage and relocation plans. He told me about his change in colleges and re-commitment to his digital music work. I told him about my observations of what I have learned in my work in Cincinnati and as an Uber driver. He told me about what he has learned about the connections between his physical and emotional health. We spent 20 minutes truly coming out from behind ourselves into a meaningful discussion with one another. We were connecting regardless of our differences and because of our similarities.
It was this third conversation as well as after I dropped Daniel off that I began to ruminate about what it means for a black guy in his 20s to be brothers with a white guy in his 50s. Our brotherhood and sisterhood is not so much about our heritage or even our genes as much as it is about our shared humanity and common experiences. I’m fascinated by the ongoing and random connections that a vehicle like Uber provides for helping people to understand in safe, short automobile trips that life isn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B if we’ll take some time to participate in the realities of our inter-relatedness.
It doesn’t matter whether it is two guys conversing in a 2014 Mazda 6, two women managing a company, two people engaged in some sort of virtual chat. We are also constantly transitioning from one manner of being to another. Some of these transitions are overt, powerful, sudden. Others are simply the routine and unseen death and life experiences the cells of our bodies are undergoing. Unquestionably, despite how much we seek to avoid, deny, deflect, or diminish change. It happens, now, all the time, and eternally. Our shared humanity is bonded by transitions.
In his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges provides a brief summary of the foretelling of Psyche’s death. (The tale of a beautiful mortal female who angers Venus and consequently must die because of her gorgeousness. However, Cupid and Zephyr rescue and love her through the travails of her existence). Bridges summarizes the outcome of Psyche’s life and ours by brilliantly surmising that: “No new time of life is possible without the death of the old lifetime. To gain you must first give up.” (Bridges, Managing Transitions, 2004, p. 177)
Apuleius in the 2nd Century CE and Bridges in the 21st Century CE both touch upon a mythical yet universally spiritual, religious truth. Life is dynamic, not static: circular, not linear. Consider how seasons of life transition from periods of growth to periods of solace and death. Consider how plants willingly die so that they drop their seeds into the soil so that future life and growth may occur. If your preference is more religious than scientific then observe the manner of life of Jesus the Christ in the West and Buddha in the East. Both of these mortals obtain immortality because of their willingness to sacrifice the life they live for the betterment and salvation of the people they teach. Those of us who believe in their examples and compassion honor them ritualistically. That’s terrific and what seems more profound is for us to incarnate their examples as best we can. Life is an ongoing opportunity to live, suffer, and be reborn. Jesus in the West and Buddha in the East offer us Grace by guiding us to accept transitions including death, grief, and loss as they did. This divine knowledge offers possibilities to embrace new life and rebirth.
It is customary for families often to say that “blood is thicker than water.” Most people believe that this phrase implies that our relationships with our siblings, parents, and next of kin are more valuable than our relationships to friends and neighbors.
In actuality, this phrase came into being in the Middle Ages to endorse shared human experiences, not familial ties. Blood was thicker than water when people formed a death-defying bond or covenant with one another. Soldiers declared that their blood was thicker than water when they mutually shed blood in battle. They thereby became deeply connected to their humanity. Such blood was more relational than the shared water of the womb. Let’s not forget that mothers shed blood and water both when they offer life to their children. Many women died in childbirth and still do.
I believe, as we become increasingly more connected with one another via the Internet, improvements in communications and transportation, and as life increasingly requires us to understand our pluralism, human beings will need to embrace our shared transitory lives. We will need to look past traditional, cultural bonds of identity so that we may gaze into the possibilities of transformed ways of abiding with one another. Jesus in fact questioned “who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12: 48) Daniel and I do not share a brotherhood in arms or biological cells. We do share transitory realities that bind us to one another on many levels.
It may indeed be that such transformational brotherhood is presently impossible given the almost frantic levels of fear, mistrust, and hatred individuals and cultural groups possess toward one another. Religious, scientific, mythical, and historical truths suggest that our human egos and biases indeed seek to protect what has been and preserve what is. Such small-ego based efforts will most likely avail for naught if we let go and let life operate as it intends. The universe pulls upon us in unforeseeable and unexpected ways, frequently to our puzzlement and chagrin. Daniel and I, in the course of three Uber rides broke down some fairly significant cultural paradigms by embracing the real truths of simply being human and traveling down life’s one road with one another for a few miles.