ON FRIENDSHIP

We’ve all had friends. Some of us starting as early as four or five years old. Those may not have lasted long, but as we grew older, we developed friendships more enduring. Some lasting to this day, others falling by the wayside for one reason or another. And not all of those friendships – even the enduring ones – were equal in depth or intimacy.

How many of us asked,
“How did those Friendships arise?”
“Why were some enduring, and others not?”
“Why were some deeper and more intimate than others?”
And the last two:
“Why do we even call some Friend – but others not? “
“Do we even have some criteria in applying the word Friend to some, but not others?”

Those of us who have asked the last question about criteria, and found they have some, will answer in many different ways. Depending on how they were raised, their experiences and the thought given to the answer.

For my thoughts on the subject (Surprise, Surprise), I offer the following.

What do we spend most of our Lives doing? Thinking. Think about that – no pun intended. No matter what we do during our days, we think. At work, at play, at home, while driving, whatever the endeavor – we think. It may be productive – or not, creative- or not, beneficial – or not, harmful even, and occasionally a bolt of inspiration may magically appear. But I think most of it is time filling.

Life is about value. Whether aware of it or not, we search for value. In our work, in our relationships, in our selves. Value is not a haphazard discovery. Those who make it so, I fear, seldom seem to find it. The problem is that random thinking – I call it doodle thinking – is not necessarily rewarding. Thinking without purpose is doodle thinking. Thinking with purpose is thought. Thought is necessary to find value. If we give it the thought it deserves, value lies within almost everything in our lives. So life is a thoughtful search for value. Certainly, no more so than within our relationships.

This brings us to Friendship, and those five questions above. Initially, I’m not sure much thought goes into the very beginning of what may become Friendship. Two people meet, discover a shared common interest, and choose to pursue it when convenient for both – but share not anything much deeper or intimate beyond that. This is a relationship somewhere between an Acquaintanceship and a Friendship.

If it is to become anything more of a relationship – a Friendship – then something more than just a shared interest must develop. We wrote earlier about the thoughtful search for value in relationships. Depending on if, and how the relationship does develop into areas other than the shared interest – an awareness and recognition of values within each other should soon appear. If they are the powerful values of substance of character and substance of thought – it elevates the relationship to a much higher plane. We can trust people of substance. And with trust follows an openness of expressing our more deeply held thoughts and feelings – without fear of criticism and diminishment. A safe harbor if you will. This is the beginning of a deeper and more intimate relationship – a true Friendship.

But there is another way a Friendship begins. If you’re lucky. A much more immediate way. You meet someone – even unexpectedly – and within a short conversation that is everything but conventional, you feel as if, somewhere, you have known this person before. This person has such strength of presence, and displays within that short conversation – so much substance of character and thoughtfulness – that you know this is a person not only of great value, but one who must be in your life. Hopefully, sooner or later, as a Friend. Usually, it’s sooner rather than later.

There are many aspects to Friendship, which probably accounts for all those earlier questions. I’ll mention one aspect – Engagement – the emotional delight and anticipation in seeing your Friend’s name on a voice or email message. Either, or both, are new opportunities to engage with each other – if one be so fortunate. For engagement is a basic part of what I call True Friendship – to be mutually open to an exchange of each others’ ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Knowing that all of it is done with honesty of expression, and respect for all of the values within each other. And engagement – the special emotion in a Friendship – that encompasses trust, openness and intimacy of mind and heart – is an important component of that relationship. How could it not be? After all, how many people do we truly engage with our minds and hearts?

In closing, I offer two other people who have spoken or written of Friendship. As you will soon see, they have a very different way of speaking of Friendship, not surprising considering that one is British from the Victorian era and one is quite modern to say the least. But I find that one could find no truer words than what they say or write.

Diana Kennedy, 92, the renowned author and cook of Mexican and many other cuisines. She’s had a friendship for some 20 years with Gabriela Camara, 40, a restaurateur behind Contramar in Mexico City and now opening a new restaurant in San Francisco. She and Gabriela were interviewed recently in the WSJ Weekend monthly Magazine.

Here are a few of Kennedy’s excerpts on her Friendship with Gabriela.
“My motto is No bullshit. The friendship with Gabi has grown over the last 15 years. We constantly inspire each other. Because what is friendship? It’s a spark. With Gabi, it’s the energy of a young person, the honesty.”
“Gabi will travel to my place, spend the night, and we’ll talk and talk. We’ve discussed everything and everybody. No topic is off-limits. As I say, no bullshit. That’s when you have a real friend. For me, it’s not someone you invite to play cards with you.”
“I hope that she’ll preserve the memories of the frantic conversations we’ve had. That’s all you can hope to give a friend.”

Second is Thomas Troward, an English author of more things than I can describe here, who lived from 1847-1916. I will add nothing after what he writes below. It would only detract from the beauty of all he wrote – especially the last line.

“How is one to know a friend? Certainly not by the duration of acquaintance. Neither can friendship be bought or sold by service rendered. Nor can it be coined into acts of gallantry or phrases of flattery. It has no part in the small change of courtesy. It is outside all these, containing them all and superior to them all.

To some is given the great privilege of a day set apart to mark the arrival of a total stranger panoplied with all the insignia of friendship. He comes unannounced. He bears no letter of introduction. No mutual friend can vouch for him. Suddenly and silently he steps unexpectedly out of the shadow of material concern and spiritual obscurity, into the radiance of intimate friendship, as a picture is projected upon a lighted screen. But unlike the phantom picture he is an instant reality that one’s whole being immediately recognizes, and the radiance of fellowship that pervades his word, thought and action holds all the essence of long companionship.”

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