3/3/23: Why Do I Admire My Friend? #poetry
I wonder why I admire my friend.
I was lucky. I was born into a family that loved me. We were made of the same material. In spite of that, we were alien to one another. We loved each other from the moment I took my first breath (I was the youngest), but we had no idea how to go about manifesting our love.
I never came to complete understanding with my parents and the aunts and uncles of their generation. That didn’t matter. It was the process of attempting to perfect that understanding that bound us together. We appreciated the mutual effort. Ultimately my brother, my only sibling, recognized who I am and why I am that way. I hope my view of him is mutual. The older generation’s struggle is the foundation for the brothers’ bond.
The perfection of a family is a multi-generational affair.
Marriage is a call to mystery, to experience intimacy with another, and to create something new. The lessons of two families merge.
Family, and particularly marriage, are states of relinquished individuality. One is still an individual, but in familial and spousal relations, you are just one part of a whole. If one thing happens to a family member, who you are connected to by either biology or marriage, it happens to you … not as a matter of empathy, but as a positive or negative disruption of an organism of which you are a part.
With family and marriage you are required to always be with the beloved other. Friendship requires a contrasting reticence, an ability to sometimes stay away. In family and marriage two solitudes become one. In friendship, two solitudes orbit one another, giving and reflecting light on each other.
Friendship is an often misused word. There are neighbors who wish you well. They are important and appreciated. In many ways, they make living in society possible and bearable. Your ties to these people do not have the requisite nature of friendship.
Friendship requires a commitment to the soul of your friend. The soul changes over a lifetime. Some people might seem friends, but when one’s soul transforms in a manner that is of no interest to them, they will leave you, or you will leave them. They might even attack you if you head in a direction that scares them. You may resent them if you have mistaken them for friends and feel betrayed. The pain of the end of near-friendship is the sensation of the creation and destruction of your own identity and the collective unconscious of the world.
I admire my friend for personal and intellectual reasons.
He recognized me when no one else did. That is not hyperbole. He saw value in me when the world saw failure and madness.
We were separated for many years. It didn’t matter. We just resumed after our pause.
I was free, but burdened by concern for the opinions of others, most of whom were ignorant or malicious. He stood by me, and let me work through it. Just knowing that he existed, buoyed my confidence, allowed me to keep creating, and eventually to eliminate my suffering and gain insight into the nature of my antagonists.
I no longer care what other people think in part because he showed me an intelligent, just and kind alternative.
Those are some of the personal reasons. I am grateful for his warmth and generosity, and I hope and work to be a constant comrade, returning any and all of his favors, and do anything else as required to encourage and support my friend as he creates his life project.
The presence of my friend is a place where I can breathe. We engage in soulful and seemingly aimless talk and silence, and in those relaxed moments sometimes discover previously unknown vectors of light that we soar on like zip lines into our respective futures.
We are not the same, and we are the same. Each friend resonates in the heart of another — so different — very different — but grounded in our common human experience. This is different than the love of marriage or family. I am my wife. I am my brother. Sacrament and biology make our ills, and triumphs, our sicknesses and pleasures and satisfactions and deaths common conditions of the same body. No empathy is required in family and marriage. But friendship is voluntary. The choice to care … in friendship we take over for God and start designing our own destiny. Friendship carries us beyond ourselves. It is the place where we decide what to make of the selves we’ve been given.
My friend and I never argue. It’s not because we always “agree”. It’s not a question of agreeing and disagreeing. We accept one another. We contemplate each other. We don’t conform to one another. We see the deep levels of being in each party, and use that appreciation to reflect on our personal existential nature.
My intellectual admiration for my friend resembles my admiration for a book or movie or politician or athlete … His life is a work of art. His art can be seen in his work and in the way he sips coffee or walks through a park. Everything he does is touched by genius and humanity.
Heart, mind and soul … I have an endless roster of friends … most are movies or books or politicians or athletes or other works of art and artists … but the great intellectual opportunity of my friendship with the person that I describe today is that I actually talk to him and he specifically replies to me … and in so doing he enhances and informs my discussions with artists and artworks separated from my immediacy by time and distance …
The old saying says that “you can count your true friends in life on one hand”, and the truism may overestimate the number. The friendship I describe here is a very mature friendship. Looking back, it was obvious from the beginning, and it has ripened over decades where we have been together and apart. Our friendship grew in the decades when we weren’t in touch, because our lives are in sync for reasons other than our constant mutual presence.
There are other people that I count as friends, and I hope we get the chance to experience something like what I have with my great friend …
But if we don’t, it’s okay, because the unconsummated spiritual partnership with the friends that we barely or never know …
still carries us to our destiny …
Friends are angels … some take human form … and most dance on the heads of pins …
Their unseen hands carry us home.
Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas