I want to talk about friendship on a philosophical level. What prompted me was an article in my weekly Brainpickings newsletter, I realised that there has been a lot of thought-action on friendship melting just below the tip of my iceberg sub conscience lately.
What is friendship? Why do we have friends?
When I was young, I treated my best friends like siblings: they were people I could borrow things from with the exception that that in friendship, unlike in sisterhood, I always gave those things back. We were kindred spirits racking up a score in life’s lessons of good and bad times. Understanding mistakes and moving on.
As you go through the twenties, friends are people you have good times with and also whom you depend on emotionally as we learn to get to know ourselves after separating from the family unit. We are all in ‘life class’ together and we help each other to reflect information about ourselves and the human race, and allow ample time for discussions about it. This will involve calling in sick from work a lot as your wine time overflows in to the early hours of the morning on a week day. Why? Because it is more important; this is life or death.
Mid to late twenties, independence takes over, a full born individualistic personality takes order and all of a sudden so does the sense of loneliness as we start to feel alone (Note the contradictory use of ‘we’ on that sentence – it is for full, end-of-paragraph climatic effect). You have conversations with yourself instead of with friends. You think you’re mad. You think you’re right. You think you’re wrong. You doubt yourself. You are way too embarrassed to discuss this until you the point where you reach some serendipitous moment with a stranger on a train which then clarifies that you are in fact ‘not the only one’ and you then start socialising again. We see things clearly as far as the purity of our individual soul can go. But we always miss something. (Note the grammatically incorrect use of the collective we in a paragraph full of second person references – all for that climatic ending I mentioned earlier…).
Now, let’s call it late twenties (early thirties) we have many friends for lots of reasons. You have your friends with kids that you hang out with in down time, your friends that rave until early morning for when you need a dance release, your friends that you meet for a quiet Asian beer and a dumpling soup, your friends that you meet up with and drink copious amounts of gin whilst planning your own production company, cocktail bar or private island.
But the friends I am mostly drawn to at this stage of my friendship life are my honest friends. I may only see them every now and then or I may see them everyday but what their lips or their face has to say about my life or my hair or my shoes or my health is crucial!
One of the notions of friendship is that it is like looking in to a mirror, gaining a reflection of the type of person you are, through their eyes. Another notion is that this presents truth about one’s self.
I appreciate more than anything, my friends who are honest and brave with me. I am a sensitive soul and often a whiny whinging bitch but then more than often a bubbly outgoing raging party animal! Different friends reflect different parts of me and vice versa. However, the friends who I appreciate the most are brave enough to enter the Lion’s den and will tell me if my hair is ugly. They will tell me if I am being a an egghead. They know how to crack me perfectly in to the frying pan and serve me up nice and warm and soft. But mind you, they do butter the toast, they do this all in the most acceptable and tactful method that is relevant at that point in time. Most importantly, they don’t allow me to play smoke in the mirrors: they point out to me if I am lying to myself or not. My reactions aren’t always pleasant but I always accept. Sometimes I walk way and we have to meet up for a ‘lightbulb moment beer’ where we discuss on the same level the thing that I did not before get. This is good because we are constantly changing as people.
These friends, they are in fact honest with themselves. They and I know that we all don’t know everything, but that what we know at that point in time is the truth and that’s that.
I also accept their compliments as genuine. Their happiness for my success as genuine. And they in turn accept mine.
Sometimes I don’t feel comfortable telling some people some truth about them, and that is also fine, it may not be my duty. It could be their own duty, or a sibling duty or someone else’s duty. I imagine some friends could be like this with me, which is absolutely fine as some friends serve different purposes. We don’t put all of our eggs in the one basket do we? And our shells are different thickness’, different colours, different textures. Some of us need a firmer hand and others need careful handling and often we require both at different times.
I am a big believer in learning things on my own, figuring things out for myself. But sometimes, just sometimes, you need a friend who will point out the obvious for you, save you a lot of hard work and time, energy, money, psych bills! Or they don’t mind when you come back to them and tell them what you have discovered: they know when to tap their foot and say ‘told you so’ or when to say ‘good work, Trace, you figured it out’.
In a discussion with some friends the other night (the ‘normally we party on late but tonight is a week night let’s have an wine and watch stand up comedy’ friends) we talked about how some friends are in your life for a short time but have a large impact. Others, you may have known your whole life but have had a smaller impact. And so on. But the collective agreement was that friends happen. They aren’t forced.
“To desire friendship is a great fault. Friendship should be a gratuitous joy like those afforded by art or life. We must refuse it so that we may be worthy to receive it; it is of the order of grace. It is one of those things which are added unto us. Every dream of friendship deserves to be shattered… Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue)” – Simone Weil.
So I guess to answer my questions, (which I though were rhetorical until I realised that I needed a conclusion to this blog post) we have friends because we are human and we learn from each other about the world and about ourselves, friends are a survival technique for our intelligent minds on this earth. And friendship can be as important as you want it to be; if you want to know the world and know yourselves and survive/live life in a great way, you will have honest and great friendships. Of course, we all need to be kind to ourselves and spend time alone to clarify all of our learnings, our great epiphanies. But nothing goes down better than a chat about this life stuff with your ‘wine time’ friends, does it? 🙂