The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Common experiences help form special bonds

One thing in life that has always intrigued me is the way humans form connections with others. I have often asked myself things like, “What is it that makes she and I understand each other so well?” or conversely, “Why do he and I always have a disconnect in our conversations?” C.S. Lewis said friendship is formed at that moment when one person says, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” This has been the case in my own life even when the “You too?” may not have been obvious.

What got me thinking about this over the past week was the death of my grandmother (hereafter, Nana). Nana passed away last Sunday and her funeral was last Thursday. Consequently, I sent an e-mail to all my coworkers explaining why I would be out of the office Thursday. Though I was not looking for sorrow, I expected a few “sorry about your loss” statements, but I received much more than that. Almost every person in our company stopped by my desk to talk to me about Nana, and no one said a simple “I’m thinking of you.” Everyone who said anything stopped and really talked to me about Nana, my family, and their own experiences of loss.

In those moments, I learned a great deal about a number of my coworkers, and we were able to connect around the common experience of a death in the family. Everyone I spoke to had lost a grandparent, and others had lost one or both of their parents. One man had lost his first wife, and another man had to hold back tears as he told me about how he lost his father years ago. I realized that we can be surprisingly intimate in our otherwise casual relationships when we share a deep and meaningful common experience.

One conversation even touched on the supernatural. It is interesting that heaven is so foreign to everyday conversation (especially in the workplace) but so commonly spoken of after someone has passed away, no matter what the context. This man happened to speak of a Christian heaven, but some sort of heaven is often spoken of regardless of religious persuasion (or the lack thereof) after a death has occurred. It amazes me how something so serious and potentially controversial can become a readily acceptable conversation piece in light of a recognized common experience.

Of course, death is not the only common experience that can cause otherwise casual relationships to take a turn toward the intimate. Rather, it is just the one that has been on my mind over the past week due to my personal circumstances. It is also perhaps the most extreme example of what I am talking about. Especially considering how serious of an issue death is, how relatively often it confronts us and how necessary it is for us to speak of it in the context of funeral arrangements and the like. But there are always instances that force me to converse with friends or acquaintances about issues previously perceived to be off-limits or otherwise avoided in our verbal exchanges, and breaking through those conversational barriers is what causes relationships to develop and increase in intimacy.

It goes without saying that I now feel closer to the coworkers who spoke to me about Nana’s passing than I did previously. I would be lying if I said I suddenly feel that I can trust them with my life or that these single conversations have made these men feel like brothers to me, but I do realize that, having had these conversations, future conversations are likely to become intimate in nature more quickly and seamlessly than previous ones. Thus, it seems to me that, consciously or not, the level of intimacy present in past conversations determines the level of intimacy present in the current relationship and future conversations. That is why common experiences can be pivotal in determining the future intimacy of a relationship.

Matt Brummit is a senior humanities major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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