Everything depends on our ability to exchange experience, it seems, the guiding, the guarding, the sense of presence.  Or it depends, I should say, on our willingness to exchange experience.

John S. Dunne

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We cannot acquire another’s experience if we have not had a similar experience. More to the point: experience is critical to our development, growth and maturity, wisdom and understanding – but most critically to any intimacy we might know, and make no mistake we are not human and whole without intimacy … No one is an island, an isolate – a being unto himself, or herself.

We cannot acquire the experience of another – receive and house those we purport to love without having experienced life in its fullness – not selectively, or through a personal or ideological prism, taking in what we want and discounting and discarding the rest.

There is no love, no relationship, no intimacy, no eternity experienced, anticipated, known without living life as it is fully presented in experience.

John Dunne makes this come to life in his book Love’s Mind.  How right he is.

Our culture, like human beings, reports to us as to our maturity and wisdom. The themes of the culture are seen in our iconic people – our public figures, our gravely lost perpetrators, our addicted, our suicides and the rare balanced, insightful and witty people who present themselves to us or simply cross our paths.

Public figures, unknown to them, actually give us a significant indication of whether we are whole, balanced, well and wise.

What do I mean?

Take our President.  One cannot name a friend of his, a compatriot.  Significant? Yes, friendships are built on shared experiences, shared lives – on conversations, and there is a vast difference between public admonitions and pronouncements and conversation.

No friends, an absence of conversation, of the acquisition of another – the guiding and guarding event of sharing experience that is the essential to growth, wisdom, compassion, human contact and intimacy.

When we do not acquire experience, we do not have friendships. We are, look at all the evidence – including data, not a nation of friendships, rather more a land of loneliness, isolation, desperation.

Indeed, a leader without friendships is likely without experience (sequestered, unpracticed and unlearned in life) and in a most fatal and dangerous way unable to acquire the world around him, the plight of those foreign to him.  It is fair to say that the lives of Christians, Jews and Israel is not apt to be understood by the inexperienced person.  Further, that what is not understood is rejected by the unwise and inexperienced.

Or take Mrs. Clinton.  Her public life has been dominated by public troubles stemming from private conduct and personal problems – and she has earned the ire of journalists and others because of her habitual parsing of “truth,” and her (frankly) public untruths, her secrecy – one thing done to cover up another in an endless parade.

What does this say of a public icon?  It says: I do not experience life as it is, but rather (in my fragility and fear) try to fashion all life to my way, my advantage – as if I am the King and Creator of life and all it in. It says – I have not experienced, but rather cut and diced life as I desire or need or want.  Again, no intimacy, no wisdom, no understanding, no compassion there – only disorder and fragmentation.

Everything, as Dunne says, depends on experience, and the ability to share it with others.  No experience in life, no life – and nothing to share.

Keep a deft ear to those voices of the broken, confused, inexperienced – they serve only to tell us what to avoid and where are real problems are.  This, too, applies to your personal life.