I’m in that age where school reunions is a thing of distant past but the concept is still familiar to me. I don’t think I’ve been to any school reunion but the very first one yet escaping reunion news hasn’t been possible so I know what’s going on with my old classmates. It’s a strange but somehow comforting world out there.
About ten percent of people I started school with have already died, some violently, some just wasted their lives on alcohol and drugs, some just expired due to regular pressures of everyday life.
No one made it big. One went into local politics, one became a businessman with hundreds of employers, the rest are just getting by. There’s at least one professional hobo but no girls have become strippers or prostitutes, afaik, just regular sluts, I’ve been told.
Due to an unexpected fluke in test result calculations I graduated the best in my class but also the first one to fall off the radar, and then I joined Hare Kṛṣṇas, though it seems no one remembers that anymore and they refer to me as working somewhere I quit long time ago. God bless them, they mean well.
People whose grades were always higher than mine didn’t do as well as expected, one of my closest friends ended up on a father-son contractor team working out of rented apartments in a big city a thousand miles away, their former family fallen apart after mother died. Another one, the indisputable role model all through the school, spent many years unemployed before finally joining the rat race as a small business owner.
The most recognizable name turns out belongs to a guy who flunked all the tests and left school as soon as possible. Not that he is famous but his photoblog is popular in my town so everyone knows him now.
Enough with the details, let’s talk about reunions themselves.
They take us back to much simpler times and put us where we belonged, even those of us who were mercilessly bullied back then. In school we had no personal responsibilities and were provided for in every possible way. It didn’t register at the time but now we realize that hopes for OUR future was the main driving factor of ALL life around us.
Parents, teachers, school administration, educational system, in a way the entire country was committed to making us into decent citizens. We were the future and nothing was spared to prepare us for it.
In return we had full trust in the society we were growing into, we didn’t know anything else, we had no concept of injustice. We were shielded from all life problems and we couldn’t even imagine that we would be drinking or smoking when we grew up, such degraded life was not for us.
In a sense, our faith and devotion to our dreams and idealistic view of society that enabled them was absolute and unconditional, nothing could stand in our way.
Then we met the real world.
Then we longed to return back to our school days because nothing in the real world can ever replace that faith and devotion and without it our lives are empty.
I totally get that, I assimilated that faith and hopes with my mother’s milk or, better yet, as we learn the mother tongue. It formed the very essence of my being that I will never be able to separate myself from. Love and other relationships came later and went almost without a trace and they will never be able to compare to impressions of our formative years, they don’t stand a chance.
Another freaky thing is that no matter what we have grown into we can always recognize our personalities from our childhood. Sometimes we are surprised at the changes, sometimes not, but we can always see same childhood friends underneath weary adult exterior.
Most people find it amusing and rejoice at meeting old friends in new bottles, so to speak, but that is exactly what bothers me about the whole reunion thing – they know me better than I know myself. They see me for who I am and they accept me no matter what I have become now. They moved into a zone where forgiveness and acceptance are absolute and I realize that I irresistibly drawn there, too, and this is where I actually belong.
It messes up with my attempts at developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
As devotees we are not supposed to have places like that, as devotees we can’t share our devotion to the Lord with anything or anyone else, yet here they are – a bunch of old school friends who are still absolutely loyal to my wellbeing and I’m absolutely loyal to their wellbeing, too.
At this point I should probably mention that my ISKCON relationships haven’t come even close, even with my guru, who I dare not to treat as my care provider like I would look at my mother or my school friends.
What is also scary is that devotion to dreams and hopes of my childhood feels very very real while I still don’t know the first thing about Kṛṣṇa, I only heard that He is great and all-attractive but I have no personal experience of it whatsoever. I don’t have even a shred of love for Him while my love for my schoolmates is still there, ready to manifest at moment’s notice.
We know that everyone in our lives eventually fails us, even our parents, and my schoolmates are no different if push comes to shove but the idea of looking after each other and building a better future together never dies and never fails to elicit response in our hearts.
There are lots of layers in everyone’s life which have completely covered all childhood fantasies and sometimes people consciously suppress their memories but, like with Kṛṣṇa, they are still there, they never ever go away, only become covered just as our pure consciousness becomes covered by illusion.
To deconstruct this irresistible attraction I have to go back to the very basics. As I said, these people know me better than I know myself, so the answer should be to know myself better than they do. This attraction is build on bodily platform but I am not my body so, stripping myself of all false designations I must eventually come to the point where I would see my childhood as external. It might go very close to my heart but it is not only possible, it’s inevitable.
At some point I WILL realize that hopes and dreams my childhood was made of were not mine but imposed on me by the material energy. My current fascination with them means I haven’t yet detached myself from this deep misidentification but it also means that now I have it on my list and sooner or later its time will come.
Or we could say that I found a missing śloka from Bhagavad Gītā, “I am the essence of the school reunions”, that would make it legitimate to see Kṛṣṇa in my nostalgia.
Speaking of Kṛṣṇa and school reunions – the episode with Sudāmā coming to see Kṛṣṇa in Dvārakā is nothing but a small scale school reunion itself. This story illustrates that the bonds students develop with each other during their school days are as powerful as any other and in some ways go deeper into the soul than anything else.
Sadly, Kṛṣṇa didn’t go to my school and so my bonds all went to waste just like any other relationship based on the material platform, and now I have to work hard to cleanse my heart of anarthas associated with it.