Authentic Friendships…A Shared Space At The Flea Market
It was a quiet little Saturday.
The kids and I were hanging out, bored, eager to find something to placate our restless spirits.
My oldest daughter caught my gaze and said rather curiously, “Daddy, why are we here when we can be at the flea market.”
The idea seemed as good as any.
Plus, in the Poconos, this is the bee’s knees of adventure.
So, to the Bazaar, we sauntered.
And let me tell you just how exhilarating it was.
What’s to not love about chasing three little girls that passionately desire every cheap and shoddy little toy in sight?
Finally, after a lot of tears, pouting, temper tantrums, and caving in, we decided it was time to satiate our appetites.
Ergo, we pranced our way to the food trucks.
People Are So Dissociative
Not that the flea market is filled to the brim with contemporary socialites, but the people were seemingly numb to the existence of others.
In hindsight, I adopted this mindset and appeared to notice others little.
That was until I noticed Steve.
Out of left field, this guy was walking around talking to people and pointing out things he enjoyed about them.
“Hey man, sweet tattoos!”
“Hey brother, beautiful family!”
“Hi buddy, nice hat, go yanks!”
You couldn’t help but like him, he desired to share the space with you.
In fact, he invited it.
Steve first approached me noting how awesome my kids were and how refreshing it was to see children playing and having a good time.
He introduced me to his wife, Sarah, and commented how they were on vacation without their kids, so seeing mine playing and horsing around provided a feeling of home, of refuge.
He then proceeded to show me pictures of his kids and extended family and then invited us to his table.
Steve asked engaging questions and really made us feel welcome.
My kids are usually skeptical of strangers – I’ve taught them well – but with my permission, they opened up about school and cheerleading and he and his wife never appeared to lose interest.
It was unparalleled friendliness and extremely welcoming in the dreariness of the flea market.
All Is Impermanent…
Eventually, as with all good things, an ending arrived, so they said their farewells and departed.
I’ll likely never see them again, yet the space we shared will remain.
This is the reality of authentic friendships, no matter the degree of superficiality, it exercises an extremely healthy dose of agency and communion that turbo-charge any interpersonal function.
The feeling and sense of belonging is one of the primary needs of human beings.
I’d argue that it is the pinnacle of human experience.
What is life if not the shared space between us all?
Share the space and you’re truly living.
Confine yourself to your own space and it eventually becomes so congestive and narrow that all that’s left is the mechanism of breathing.
Sharing The Space Between Us: Communion & Agency
To truly share the space, forge friendships, and cultivate a sense of secure belonging, two primary ingredients are required: communion and agency.
A healthy relationship requires these two factors, I call it a turbo-charged friendship or perhaps more plainly authentic friendships.
When out of balance the relationship is accompanied by a host of undesirable feelings, mostly fueled by insecurity.
The Two Elements Of Emotional Fulfillment
The First Element – Communion
Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
For starters, communion is best characterized by involvement.
It’s being open to invitations of others who request you enter their space. It’s saturated with vulnerability and acceptance.
It tends to be on the receiving end to the contribution of another and requires heightened sensitivity and sensory acuity.
Someone with a healthy degree of communion is less task-oriented and more bent on sharing the presence of another.
Masculine & Feminine Types
In terms of gender, the masculine bent is toward personal agency, and the feminine is towards communion.
This isn’t set in stone in terms of sex, but regarding gender types, it’s fairly accurate.
A perfect example is when my spouse opens up and shares the adversity she’s been experiencing.
She almost always finds it distasteful and is sometimes even offended when I offer a solution.
The reasoning is that my wife is more communal-oriented and to her a problem shared is a problem solved.
To her, the solution is in sharing!
Purely sharing the space and connecting with vulnerability and empathy is enough to pacify the frustration and discomfort.
The Second Element – Agency
Agency is an action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect.
Agency, on the other hand, is best described as a contribution.
It is not solely solution-centric, its chief characteristics are engagement and the intentionality intrinsic to all goals, plans, and tasks.
I tend to be more agency-driven and therefore actively look for logical solutions and procedures.
This is often at the cost of personal connection and empathy with others.
The truth is not all problems can be solved simply by sharing space with another.
Some problems are so complicated that they can not be solved on the same level on which they were created. In other words, the level needs to be transcended.
Agency is one of the main mechanisms in transcending the level of conflict.
Nonetheless, all evolution by definition includes the levels that preceded it.
We are always simultaneously transcending levels and including the previous level; incorporating and going beyond.
It’s helpful to think of agency as the drive for autonomy, the preservation of identity, for wholeness.
It’s also helpful to consider communion as the drive to integrate, belong and thrive in a specific ecology, motivated as it were by partness.
As Wilber observes, “A whole atom is a part of a whole molecule, and the whole molecule is a part of a cell, and the whole cell is a part of a whole organism, and so on..”
Agency is necessary to maintain one’s selfhood and identity in a social environment.
Communion is necessary to thrive in it.
Thus, each human being is both wholeness and partness.
The combination of agency and communion is rightly called Interdependence, and it’s the only way to sustain the space we share, it’s the only manner to cultivate healthy relationships and authentic friendships.
Imbalanced communion, namely involvement with the infrequent exercise of personal agency, is the mental state of dependence.
An imbalanced agency, which is a personal agency with little connection and communion with others, is the mental state of independence.
Interdependence, however, requires both.
The Maturity Continuum
Stephen Covey probably captures this better than anyone else. In his pragmatic and succinct style, he writes,
We each begin life as an infant, totally dependent on others. We are directed, nurtured, and sustained by others. Without this nurturing, we would only live for a few hours or a few days at the most.
Then gradually, over the ensuing months and years, we become more and more independent—physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially—until eventually, we can essentially take care of ourselves, becoming inner-directed and self-reliant.
As we continue to grow and mature, we become increasingly aware that all of nature is interdependent, and that there is an ecological system that governs nature, including society.
We further discover that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others—that human life also is interdependent.
Our growth from infancy to adulthood is in accordance with natural law. And there are many dimensions to growth.
Reaching our full physical maturity, for example, does not necessarily assure us of simultaneous emotional or mental maturity.
On the other hand, a person’s physical dependence does not mean that he or she is mentally or emotionally immature.
On the maturity continuum, dependence is the paradigm of you—you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn’t come through; I blame you for the results.
Independence is the paradigm of I—I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.
Interdependence is the paradigm of we—we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.
Imperfect people, an adequate description of every human being on the planet, require interdependence to thrive emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
If we were perfect what need would we have for one another, yet wholeness presupposes partness, and vice versa, it’s inescapable.
The very fact that we begin and develop in a family unit is sure evidence that this must continue to grow, develop, and evolve into a societal unit.
Another way to think of it is we exist as autonomous agents and of necessity thrive while integrated with a larger social system.
Interdependence is the necessary mental state to satisfy our emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.
Sure, dependence and independence may allow you to survive.
But they’ll never permit you to thrive.
You’ll never be able to spring from that restless, irritable, and discontented trap.
You’ll hang out at the food court, dissociated, uninterested, and largely having an unpleasant affair.
Why? Because your space is never shared. It never expands and explores the rich interpersonal realm that brightens the human experience and synergistically offers creative and innovative solutions.
Rather, the space turns in on itself chasing after emotional, psychological, and spiritual fulfillment that cannot be produced in isolation.
Communion without agency becomes unhealthy introspection, rumination, and brooding.
Agency without communion becomes unhealthy criticism, blame-shifting, and aggression.
When we predominantly live with a communion or agency imbalance we quickly become ravenous consumers, wildly dreaming and searching to find that one ultimate person, place, or thing that will make us feel secure and fulfilled.
It’s emotional and social claustrophobia, and life starts becoming inordinately congestive and triggers full-blown survival mode.
Survival mode is best characterized by self-centered fear – the fear of losing what you have or not getting what you need.
It generates a very competitive attitude pushing one agenda: the need to out-think, out-perform, and out-maneuver everyone, or else…
The early bird gets the worm and the second mouse gets the cheese, you always have to be vigilant and play the cards right or all hell will break loose.
At least this is how it feels emotionally.
The interdependent person seeks to contribute resources within the confines of a relationship.
See that shift? It transcends and includes!
Rather than mindlessly consuming resources, they contribute, in fact, they become the resource.
Steve reminded me of this at a time when I desperately needed it.
I was stuck in a full-tilt agency-driven independent madness. We often need someone to shake us from our emotional lethargy.
Everyone Needs A Shaker!
Check out this pointed narrative of Moses.
Pay attention, the symbolism is rich and telling but can easily be missed with the rapid movement of the story. It’s found in the Bible in the book of Exodus 17:8-13.
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
Even the most spiritual of men need a stone to sit on, one provided by others mind you.
Even spiritual giants need assistance in their life tasks; if your hands aren’t in the hands of others perhaps that is the reason for your struggle. You’re failing to incorporate and simultaneously move beyond.
Another biblical story that majestically embodies this truth is John 11:43-44, it’s when Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead.
Even if you don’t believe these stories to be literal, check out the symbolism!
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
Attention is often paid to the fact that Lazarus was just brought back from the dead. That’s not surprising, it’s not something you see every day.
Nonetheless, what caught my attention is that his resurrection was incomplete without others releasing Lazarus from his burial bonds.
We all need that shaker in our life who either intentionally or unknowingly ‘unbinds us and lets us go.”
If you’re open to it, people will come along and unintentionally or even intentionally provide a life-transforming insight.
Allow them to unbind you, wake you up, and send you on your way.
Share the space.