Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Friend-ship, Not Friend-ing

The word "friend" seems to have lost its meaning. The title's potency has diminished over the centuries, and getting verbed by Facebook was the final nail on the coffin. When I looked it up in the dictionary, the definition was rather dispassionate. 
Is it just me, or should "friendship" evoke a great attachment, a sincere mutuality of love and caring? A friend is not merely someone with whom to go shopping and a movie. A friend is not the poor sucker you call up and kvetch to after an unpleasant annoyance, then don't contact when something good happens or when the other could use an empathetic ear. A friend is not someone who has a place in another's life only when it's convenient.
Friendship is not a one-sided state of being. It shouldn't serve only half. It should bring out the best in both parties, not the worst. It should mean fierce loyalty and deep compassion.

David Brooks' "Startling Adult Friendships" lists the benefits of friendships (better decisions, freedom to be oneself, improved character). I tried to think of those examples in real life, not just in terms of my own relationships, but of others. I couldn't really come up with any couple that I have observed in its natural habitat that truly represented selfless, transcendent friendship. 
In the first place, friendship helps people make better judgments. So much of deep friendship is thinking through problems together: what job to take; whom to marry.
You know how many times I read in frum forums: "I met this great girl/guy. I'm so happy. My friend, though, says I'm making a mistake, but doesn't give me any reasons why." 

Are those "friends" really looking out for their swooning pal, or are they simply jealous and fear being alone after their chum prances off into the sunset? 

Brooks' solution—if he was magically granted millions, mind you—would be to built a friendship retreat, mixing up a diverse group of individuals and allowing them to get to know each other. 

While friendship does need time and joint activities to form, just because twenty people are thrown together doesn't necessarily guarantee a relationship. "See you soon, keep in touch" is uttered often, but rarely the promise is practiced. Friendships cannot be forced. There is an element of bashert, there, too. 

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