MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

I went to my 35th high school reunion this weekend. I graduated in 1972 from Hawken School, having entered as a 10th grader. At the time Hawken,a private ‘prep school,’ was an all-male academy. Two years after my class graduated, women were admitted. Everything, apparently, changed!

1972 was a year in a storied era: Nixon, Nam, psychedelia, hippiedom, and callow questioning of authority are just a few of the features of its context. Over the years, my own questioning has become rigorous rather than callow, but, as I mentioned to my balding classmates, the traces of the olden experience have been sustained and etched.

We get together every five years and, for me, the reunion always provides an intriguing moment of socio-anthropological research into the developmental flow of male life. Way back when: I entered a school full of tribes with the core tribe being the sons of Cleveland’s east side professional and legacy elites. Still, the flux was such that the sorting process landed me among the artistic and long haired!

35 years later, the sorting comes undone as we’re all well into the common vicissitudes visited upon late middle agers be they burdens of health, relationships, family, career, or finances. Those ancient tribes unravel and the loosening and retying makes reunion time uniquely interesting and, dare I suggest, honest and reparative.

Somebody asked me whether I thought people actually change much over the years. As we recollect and recover together memories of misty high school days, it’s a natural question to ask. Are we conversing together as slightly altered versions of our teenage selves, or, doing so without bothering to reconcile great changes, or something else?

It is more than my prejudice to suggest the factors of nature and nurture aren’t easily separated, then to be held apart. But all I said when asked was, “I think life changes us alot.”

Of course, it’s a fascinating question for we know that the oak of personality does grow from the acorn of personality. However, it is also understood that a 5 year old’s self-report and somewhat unmediated self-presentation are categorically different than what they will be decades down the pike of life. Also, just to differentiate factors in a 5 year old is problem enough. Nature? Nurture? It’s a bit of both; but the homo sapiens sapiens is the beast able to recall and reflect and review and rehearse and. . .adapt. Learn. Change.

Jamie&David

Jamie aka Dynamo Man, Hambone, and David “Hillsee;” two of my closest friends for over 36 years sitting on the couch in my abode. My soul brothers…

I suggested to my classmates that they consider the opportunity for relationship between us–nowadays–as being predicated on deeper processes of knowing and learning. And these are about what each of us has come to, is about, is.

Whether people basically are developing some given-by-biology template, or are growing from not much more than early developmental blueprints, or are engaged in personal evolution of a more complex and entangled, and even mysterious nature, it seems patently obvious that how one goes about knowing is subject to great enhancing movements and enrichments and maturation.

We come together every five years and sort of work on that kind of knowing. We’re no longer very inexperienced in many respects. Men tend to deprecate their relationship skills, yet there is no better test ground, for men, for the foray into interpersonal knowing than the extention of charitable intimacy to another male friend.

Tis very special.

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