Dr Thomas Hargrove was kidnapped by the Columbian rebel group FARC and held for ransom for eleven months. Almost from the moment he was taken, a group of people — his wife, his brother, his neighbor, his children, his neighbor’s children — galvanized around his rescue. Twice, ransom sums were raised and rendered. One day, for no clear reason, the FARC released him. He walked home to Calli. He walked in on his wife, who was on the phone with his brother. Walked in on the neighbor who was firing up the barbecue to cook some t-bone steaks she’d bought and put away for him — not because she expected him there, but because the ritual of preparing a meal for him consoled her.
What he discovers: this team, this cell of negotiators who had convened to get him out, has never involved him directly. He learns that simply being the point of something doesn’t make you part of it. His therapist explains to him: they are like a platoon that has been through a battle on your behalf. There is a bond, but it doesn’t include you.
Further: What if the family had a friend, long lost to other pursuits, who turns up at a mid-level state department post — that is, some rank high enough to be proof against budget fluctuations, but not so high as to be vulnerable to a change in administrations — the bureaucratic tier, in other words, that endures long enough, develops relationships deep enough and wide enough to really Get Things Done. And what if this functionary reconnects with the family of the kidnapped man over this calamity? And say he also comes up against the same impression about community and connection, but from a different angle. It will be his experience that people always only talk together in the present. He will observe that even when they talk together about a shared past, it is not an old bond reviving, but something new being created — with odds no greater than new ones of establishing itself and persisting.
(Is that true, though?)
(It doesn’t have to be True; it just has to be true-in-this-case.)