(written Monday, May 27, 2013)
I am on my way home from the 50th reunion of my a cappella group from college, the Tufts Beelzebubs. It has been an amazing weekend, filled with lots of personal and collective history. It's pretty impressive what returns to the mind after returning to a familiar place and a familiar group of friends, even after 20 years. Music that I had not sung since graduation was once again in my mind and in the muscles of my throat. I found myself remembering events and people from long ago. It had a bittersweet feeling to it... mostly sweet, but it seems that all memories, even the happy ones, have a tinge of sadness for their absence.
It reminded me of a Jewish idea: we read the same portions from the Torah each year (this is particularly apparent at the High Holidays when we hear the stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jonah and the whale), but even though we read the same text each year, we change as people and so we hear the words anew. I felt the same way returning to my alma mater this year. The songs we sang were the same, the faces as well... perhaps a few more gray hairs (present company included). But I have changed. Since the last reunion, I have had a son who just turned two. That in and of itself has forever changed my perspective on the world. But it is also the mere fact of having spent more years on the earth, and having experienced joy, loss and growth.
I find these moments of returning to the familiar extremely useful, because I can use them as a yardstick to measure my progress and development. How am I being in the world now that I am older and (hopefully) wiser? How true can I be to myself even at this occasion where it would be so easy to simply follow old patterns of youthful arrogance and blindness? It felt great to see old friends, to hear about their lives and the ways they have accomplished their own goals and dreams. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days, but also deeply satisfying to know that I am no longer that college boy too clueless to really appreciate life and the gifts he has been given.
May we all embrace the changes in our lives, and give thanks for the old and the new.