A couple more thoughts on my college reunion from last weekend:
1) The reactions to the event on Zuck’s Surveillance Tool have been roundly gushing and reminiscent of expressions at the end of summer camp. I think it’s great if an event like this brings joy to people’s lives. I also wonder about the origins of those feelings, since I don’t share them. Of course, there’s heavy self-selecting going on with who comments, not to mention with who attended in the first place. Since I work at my alma mater, there’s also that degree of familiarity-bred contempt. Or if not contempt, at least tempered affinity.
2) One of the best parts for me was the privilege of getting reacquainted with a friend who I’d like to call a close friend, but I think that’s an aspiration on my part. This is a person who has directed their life strongly toward social justice and engaged scholarship, a direction I’d like to bend my life more, though substantially substituting “work in the academy” for “scholarship”. From my perspective we had a wonderful time, and I think I came away with some helpful ideas about social justice work and possibly a new foundation for our friendship. (It was also just fun to have a conversation with an old college friend that was primarily about now and the future and meaningful work in the world rather than about superficialities.) So here’s another way others’ feelings don’t resinate with me: I think reunions should be an opportunity to deepen our learning, to put into practice ways we’ve changed over a quarter-century, at mid-life (past it for some as-yet unknown portion of us). Reconnecting with the past versions of our selves — or trying to — should be about noticing the meaningful difference and acting on it. Maybe the lovefest is more than a performance? I’m skeptical.
3) This same wonderful person was standing in an academic building and encountered an older alumnus, who asked, in the kindly way we White men sometimes talk to needed service workers, where the bathroom was. My friend has a forgiving disposition and so replied that they didn’t know, they were just looking for a philosophy classroom where they napped as an undergrad. #ReuningWhileBrown