I have been reflecting in the past few days on the news of the death of a university friend who I have not really kept in contact with but around whom are a string of friendships from those days over 35 years ago which bind a group of us together. Occasionally, far too occasionally, our paths cross at reunions, celebrations and now sadly but inevitably, given our age, funerals.
So much communication these days is virtual, inevitably given the way we have spread out across the UK and (for a while at least) to far off vistas such as Hong Kong and in another instance, Finland. Our ‘community’ is not based on geographical proximity, indeed it would be interesting to speculate whether it is based on anything more than a shared experience in a formative period of our lives. Some of the relationships between members of this group have deepened and remain active as part of our ongoing lives, for others it is a brief conversation though a christmas card or the odd gathering to renew past memories. But I feel it is more than just a shared history, but it is the way we can renew and build on that shared foundation which makes continued contact worthwhile. It roots us in the present and the future.
I have been wondering whether we really make the best use of our potential to stay in touch in a more routine or every-day manner. A collective space, somewhere on this vast cyber world, to call into and share images, news, the good and the sad, to keep abreast of groups of people from our days at university should be found. For me certainly this period remains a significant part of my life and I think the lives of others, collectively and individually who were at university at a time when liberating ideas and thoughts, the capacity for critical thinking and drinking!! were at the heart of a university education.
It might be easier to have a virtual space than trying to meet, fraught with all the problems of timing, arrangements and general ‘busyness’ which we all occupy our daily lives with. Maybe communicating virtually might make a real-time reunion easier. I don’t know what I’m thinking of – a closed group in Facebook (assumes usage) or other social networking site; a collective blog; a web site or simply an email group are possibilities. But it occurs to me a collective blog where people can drop in, leave some thoughts, some images, some musings, and comment on others contribution would be a simple and cost-free way of encouraging communication.
It also set me on the trail of some other unfinished business. The loss of a close friend of my university days occurred not through illness or death nor through distance but rather through an unfortunate personal entanglement which brought him together with my then wife and contributed to a rift that left me divorced and a single parent and devoid of a good friend. Much much good has come from my life since then and the chance to be a single parent and primary carer of my two children has been an emotional (if not financial) joy ever since. We lose contact with people for all sorts of reasons but it got me wondering about whether this guy, who I believe would have known the friend who has just died, is in touch with that situation. Whilst part of me would be interested to know, it may be a virtual bridge too far to renew acquaintance.
But this blog has helped me focus on lost opportunities and regrets and maybe holding a grievance for ever is simply wasted energy. I have always valued friendships from all eras of my life. But my university one remains a big pull given what we shared, enjoyed and regreted in equal measure.