In late May, Amherst had its reunion for the Class of 1950-2010 with intervals of five years in each of the classes. Each class received a tent in which parties were thrown, social gatherings were held, and conversations were created. Walking chronologically from the earliest class to the most recent, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was entering into a silent, black-and-white film and exiting out of an IMAX movie. Each tent was a historical snapshot of that time period: elderly white male comprised the class of 1950 tent, few African-American men held their martinis in the class of 1970 tent, and women engaged in political conversations in the class of 1980 tent. The campus turned into a conglomeration of alums ranging from their mid-twenties to early-nineties.
Sometime before midnight, I mindlessly ambled into the class of 1970 tent and found an elderly couple sitting in the corner of the tent. The two seemed to be engrossed in a conversation as they did not see me approaching them. Call it an act of bravery or an act of foolishness, but I decided to sit right next to them and insert myself into the dialogue. It was only after I introduced myself as an Amherst class of 2018 that the couple put down its xenophobic barrier.
We drifted aimlessly into different topics, ranging from Amherst in its 1970s to American politics to the menu for breakfast to the bland taste of the bartender’s alcohol and to the couple’s marriage. When the topic of marriage surfaced, John and Sarah – the names of the couple – assumed a new demeanor, a demeanor that I haven’t seen until now: a demeanor of nostalgia. I asked them how long they have been married for. “40 years,” answered John, “and it was faith that kept us going all these days.”
Faith, in the context of relationship, is more than just trusting one another. There is a fine line between faith and trust that seems to elude me even to this day. When you get to know a person well enough, you develop a sense of trust for that particular person, but does that mean you have faith in him/her as well? To be honest, I can’t say for sure if I know the answer to that question, but I know there is a fundamental difference in saying “I trust you” compared to “I have faith in you.”
Last December, I started dating a girl from my dormitory who lived couple doors down from me. A ritual marked by innocence and naivete, we started on this journey called relationship together and learned to adjust to this new lifestyle. As winter changed to summer and summer to spring, other concepts and emotions entered our relationship, such as jealousy, miscommunication, love, intimacy, wistfulness, and future. But it was this summer that the idea of faith came into our lives.
Having been separated for over three months – and I know some long-distance couples are shaking their heads at the adolescent tone of my commentary -, I feel this constant emptiness in myself, an oblivion that seemed to have formed in the corner of my heart. This oblivion amplifies in times when I am by myself and have time to think, and the loneliness of not being with my significant other becomes hard to bear. But it is the faith we have in each other that seems to keep us (or at least me) going.
And it’s not just the faith in each other but a faith in the promise of the present and faith in the hope of the future. If trust guarantees security, faith promises eternity. When two people have faith in each other, they are not merely safe in the now, but they are eternally liberated from their past, present, and the future, and they have the ability to craft a life parallel to the aspirations of each other. I don’t like to think that relationship is a compromise between the two people but rather a transformation between two souls, and it’s through faith that this transformation can happen.
Through this time of separation, I can see this transformation happening inside us. We are so different from who we were seven months ago, and yet it feels like nothing has changed since that fateful day in December. Maybe that’s what being in a relationship really is all about: we are not changing constantly but rather changing in constancy.
When I realized all this, John’s sentiment towards his wife seemed all the more clear. Yes, it was faith that kept them going all these days, and how beautiful is it that John and Sarah are now living the faith of the future they used to dream of in their younger days?