Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Treatise on Friendship

Editor’s Note: This piece is not about someone; it is about everyone.  Before the question even forms, this is not a shot at anyone, or passive-aggression.  I speak to “you” for lack of a better pronoun.  This is a composite, made from a wide range of experiences: it is the things I have seen, and the things I fear I may see.

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I don’t care what some song lyrics say: love is not a battlefield.  Friendships are not something to be won or lost.  So much of my pessimism regarding the problems of our world comes from watching the actions of, and the relationships between, individuals.

Just for one moment, step back and consider what any relationship between two people is: pure beauty, two individuals giving a part of themselves to create something more, something slightly more sublime.  Ever see someone playing with two lighters?  Each burns with its own small flame, but hold them close and they immediately become one: bigger, brighter, and hotter.  That is friendship.  Those friendships are the individual links of the chains that form the web we call a society.  We like to believe in the power of one, the idea that one person can change our world.  And yes, one person can make quite a difference.  But not entirely alone.  Mankind could not thrive, could not even survive, as a collection of disconnected individuals.  Forget the basic need for procreation: without shoulders to lean on, and people below to catch those who may fall, we are nothing.  Without others, why should we exist? Without others, I wonder if we even would exist.

And this is why it pains me so to watch people throw others around like chips in a card game.  If that is all the respect and reverence you can give to it, why should I respect you?  Why should I trust you? It might as well be me you just gambled away; perhaps I could be next.  Every betrayal, every whispered word behind another’s back, every friend forsaken, is another crack forming in our society’s foundation.  And I don’t know how much longer until something, somewhere, gives way.

I know that not all relationships will last, and friendships sometimes must die.  I am not blind to reality and practicality.  But isn’t that enough? Must we foster an environment where friends are now, like everything else, disposable? And more pressing, when did I lose the power to keep my friendships separate from those of everyone else?  Someone once told me that the end of a relationship is like a fork in the road: two separate paths, which will never cross again.  The insinuation is that when I come upon that fork I must choose a road, and follow only one.  I say bullshit.  So what if you don’t like them, and they don’t like you.  I like you.  I like them.  Why does that have to change?  Again, I concede that there are situations where this must happen.  I don’t like it, but I accept it.  But not every time.  Not this time.  Don’t ask me to choose between two friendships.  In the end, I will resent you for forcing that choice, and I will resent myself for making it.  If not being friends with them is more important than being friends with you, then I don’t need you.  If it is worth that little to you, then it is not worth the effort on my part.  That outlook tells me you are negative, depressing, toxic.  I’m far too cynical already: I don’t need anyone or anything else to make me more jaded.

So that’s it.  That’s where I stand.  And if you decide you need to carve a new fork in the road, then I wish you well.  But, should you decide to turn back, come find me.  I want you to.

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