Unholy Communion

“Unholy Communion” was my favourite alternative for the blog’s name, but in the end I rejected it for sounding a bit too like some sort of anti-religious thing. That’s not the mission here and it’s definitely not what I mean by the phrase.

I’m talking about all the ways we commune that are not the Catholic bread-and-wine-sharing ceremony. A chat over a cup of tea, or something stronger on a Friday night. Deep conversations by phone with an overseas sibling. Losing yourself in a task, a computer game, a sport, a dance. Linking up, whether in friendship, love or business. It is present in the intensity of physical union, and in the lightness of liking or getting a like on Facebook.

It’s not always a direct contact with another person, either: reading a book, watching a film, hearing music, looking at a painting, walking through a garden. The best of these experiences taste of their author, we get a sense of what they were going through at the time. Whether it’s something to which we directly relate or something we’re being exposed to for the first time, it’s immensely useful. It can promote understanding and empathy, provide comfort, illuminate, broaden our minds, warn us into action. This is one of the great purposes of art.

Some of it is about expressing yourself and having others understand you, or discovering that others think just the way you do. Sometimes it’s in sharing experience; skiing down a mountainside in tandem, feeling the exhilaration amplified for being mutual.

Sometimes it’s as simple as the positive exchange from a moment of human interaction (have you ever noticed how a genuine smile from the person serving your morning coffee can warm you for the whole day?) Sharing. Uniting. Connecting. It’s a very particular feeling.

In some cases perhaps it’s looking for validation, but I think it’s more fundamental than that; it’s simple recognition, witnessing. It’s the old question about living life in a vacuum; does any of this mean anything if no-one else sees it? If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear, does it make a sound?

I am a great fan of country walks and, while it’s most definitely an activity that works on your own – steeping oneself in the magnificence of nature is its own reward – I often think to myself how wonderful it would be to share this with someone else. Experience takes on added meaning when you have the chance to see it also through someone else’s filters. It solidifies, somehow, when you create a mutual memory.

I am reminded of Robert Macfarlane’s writing on walking in wild places. He usually travels happily alone, but sharing his perspective is most definitely a kind of communion, allowing those who have never been there to taste the experience, and resonating with those who have. I have seen some of the sites he describes and long to visit others, and to read about a place that falls into either category is sheer delight; his immersive perception of the experience and absolute clarity in transmitting this in words is astonishing.

I realised that this is my main objective in starting the blog: to put my thoughts out there and say hey, does anyone else feel this way? Isn’t this a wild world? Or simply, look at this amazing thing! I am fascinated by this aspect of our condition as humans; we are not islands, we crave connection, and there is a special kind of satisfaction that comes with its fulfilment.

I leave you with the definition and etymology of the word. “A joining together of minds or spirits. From Latin commūniō ‎(“communion”), from cum ‎(“with”) + mūnus ‎(“gift”).” I like the idea that this joining intrinsically brings benefits: peace of mind, depth of experience, a sense of commonality, that we are not alone in the world. Precious gifts indeed.

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