I have pondered much lately on the passage of human friendships; the budding, the blooming, the display and soon after, the drying sojourn. I brood and I compare the dynamics and intricacies of this person-to-person rapport against the consanguinity of my liaison with my pet licker. The inner workings of relationships we build with our fellow homo-sapiens, obviously very different to that with an animal because as humans, it is never that simple.
“It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just that when I’m in the company of others – even my nearest and dearest – there always comes a moment when I’d rather be reading a book.”~Maureen Corrigan
We are not that simple, people are not that simple, and motives are never that simple. Our elaborate make-up and the nature of how we are made allows us a more symbolic method of communication in that we can reason, articulate, introspect, problem solve, and manipulate, all at our own choosing. Choice. We are afforded choice and the ability to choose. And when we apply these endowments to the act of forging friendships between one human to another, the results can be something exceptionally beautiful but also sometimes unsightly. The complexities of expectations, demands and stipulations all under the mask of ‘friendship’ never looms too far behind and when left unobserved, steps forward and takes charge. Murray Gell-Mann writes,
“Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree. Someone should be studying the whole system, however crudely that has to be done, because no gluing together of partial studies of a complex nonlinear system can give a good idea of the behavior of the whole. ”
Ahh…the complexities of human behavior. The perplexities of the human mind. The way we think and act paints the abstract picture for others to appraise us. How many for us know of that one person amidst who stilly manipulates and easily takes offense? Or another who no massive passing of time or large vessel of words can appease their quest to seek affirmation? I can only conclude that the way I deem them to be is not what they appraise themselves as. Which then begs the question – What landscape am I painting of my self? Is it a pretty picture or the opposite? Too complex. Too multifarious. Too elaborate. Henri Nouwen said,
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
An apt observation indeed. The establishing of friendships is a perilous exercise because there are risks involved. How can we safe guard ourselves from the pain and disappointment of gaining a friend and loosing them at the same time? How can we be open to those we hold dear and not risk being judged? How can we prolong a friendship when we know that to gain them means to lose your soul? And how can we find that one person who is willing to leave footprints in our heart?
CS Lewis eloquently said,
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
Perhaps making friends is a human choice after all. Perhaps it is not essential, non fundamental to accumulate a field full of friends because all we need really is a handful. A handful of those who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness. Perhaps not everyone we meet are called to be a friend to us but instead we are actually called to be a friend to them. Perhaps.
In the meantime, Chloe-the-dog sits by my side and is my kimosabe, my pal, my buddy. She may not articulate her feelings, she may not know how to cure me, heal me and she definitely abandons me when her time is up but there is something in her stillness that comforts me. There is something in her quietness that calms me. That as she gives so much meaning to my life, one which in turn, I offer my companionship. No expectations. No prejudice. Perhaps that is the essentials of all human friendship. And that maybe, is the crux of the matter…
Dedicated to my buddies out there (you know who you are) who have sat with me, listened to me, cried with me and rejoiced with me. I am eternally grateful for our friendship..