Members of my jati.Posted: October 6, 2013
Mini-jati: my dear friend Beckett, his amazing wife Erin, and their maid of honor, the lady Amelia (all in post-wedding fatigue) on Lake Michigan.
I’m reading a wonderful book right now, The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s an alternate history of the world after the Black Death wipes out the entire population of Europe in the 1300s, leaving the earth to the Chinese, Indian, (Native) American, and Muslim empires. The story is told through several characters who, over the course of their many reincarnations, realize that they’re members of a “jati,” or a core group of people who recognize each other and work together in every life. Then they reconvene in the bardo (the afterlife) and discuss their progress (or just reproach each other in amusing ways) before being reborn.
It’s rare that a book shapes the whole way I look at the world. But in the last few months, I’ve been traveling all over the U.S., visiting friends I haven’t seen in years, and having incredible hours-long retrospective conversations with all of them….and I’ve begun thinking of my friends as my jati. We’ve known each other for thirty-two years, twenty years, ten years, or five years; from Annville or Lebanon Catholic or Wellesley or NASA or MIT or DSI or NPR or Roth Lab or Clarion or Ethiopia; friends who have always been friends, friends who were once lovers, or may have been in a previous life, or will be in the next; or mothers or wives or brothers or sons. I tell them how much I’ve changed, and they smile, and gently remind me how much I haven’t.
And so there’s nothing else to do but keep climbing the mountain together, higher and higher up, and pause in pairs to look back at the view stretching farther and farther toward the horizon.
I’m so grateful for these companions. Let’s be gentle with each other, in heaven as on earth.