Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
(Robert Frost)

THERE IS A “TOGETHER” INSTINCT IN NEARLY ALL OF US. Some people may be able to tolerate being alone more than others, but very few can say they have no need whatsoever for the experience of togetherness. We’re communal birds — and we tend to flock together.

Yet in these days of radical individualism, some folks shy away from togetherness, fearing it will smother their individual identities. But while some forms of togetherness might do that, authentic togetherness never obliterates the individual. Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” and that’s good advice. It’s the rhythm of togetherness and separateness that makes life exciting.

It also needs to be said that the best kind of togetherness is outward-looking rather than inward-looking. “Love,” said Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” The more “together” we are, the more we’ll derive pleasure from things that are external to the relationship. There is no self-centeredness or self-infatuation when people are truly together. Their combined vision simply gives them a better view of all that can be experienced and enjoyed “out there.”

Togetherness takes character, maturity, and hard work. Although our instincts usually run in the direction of togetherness, its actual practice in daily living doesn’t come naturally. It requires conscious effort to build wholesome relationships and then to enjoy them healthily. Like all other valuable things, togetherness has a price tag.

The main thing togetherness requires, of course, is love. By love we don’t mean the silly, sentimental thing that masquerades as love nowadays, but a solid, enduring commitment to the highest good of those around us. This kind of love has affection as one of its ingredients, but it also includes some other things: a desire to give rather than get, a willingness to sacrifice, and a readiness to go the extra mile for the sake of those with whom we’re together. If togetherness is the dough that makes the bread, love is the yeast that makes it rise.

“Love puts the fun in together . . . the sad in apart . . . the hope in tomorrow . . . the joy in a heart” (Anonymous).

Gary Henry — +

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