In the show Survivor, the key to winning is making alliances. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Likewise, in the Hunger Games, alliances are needed to literally survive. This is probably how friendship evolved. As the book Moral Tribes says, back in the day, a friend “inviting” you over for dinner could have been a life and death situation; without dinner you are dead. Friendship, as some scientist say, is simply a weird kind of cooperation, weird because friends are not related through genetics but through good will.
But as we know explaining where a thing came from, whether that be friendship, monogamy, or consciousness, is not the same as explaining what the thing is. What is friendship? One of the greatest, selfless, most beautiful forms of love. It’s no wonder friendships last forever.
|Jefferson and Adams had quite the interesting bromance. image source: history.com 1/15/15|
It was raining out. My fists were clenched ready to punch this mother fucker. Beat the shit right out of him. I was drunk. He poured a beer over my head as I was taking a piss. We were at a party. He was upset that I was making out with a girl. I couldn’t wait to finish peeing. Time to fuck him up. He came outside and I landed a right straight to his upper lip, loosening his tooth and bloodying his lip. He wanted to “go out back” behind the apartment complex. Naively and stupidly I followed him to the back. He broke down crying. He asked: will I let him punch me in the face? I said sure, but I’m punching back.’ The only thing resolved that night was this: he may have been my friend at one time, but now he is my enemy. That was the last straw. I saw this coming.
Besides the fact that I resorted to violence, which I don’t believe in now (never should have), I feel very little shame in what I did. Paradoxically, I also feel no hatred for the man; in fact, I wish him all the best. In the beginning, we developed a friendship. Eventually, he developed romantic feelings for me. If he was honest, our friendship could have been salvaged. But instead, when the dust settled, it was all confusion and misunderstanding and hundreds of wasted, pointless, agonizing hours. The lesson I learned was sobering: you should trust people, especially at the start. But, eventually, when the evidence mounts up, you need to trust yourself. Not all people have good intentions. The gulf between you and your enemies is always a lack of understanding. In this case, a lack of understanding turned poisonous.
From the beginning, my brother has always been my best friend. If you take away my brother, I am nothing. Take that away, I am less empathetic, less smart, less open-minded, less inquisitive, less everything. We did nothing short of exploring the world together. We knew we were lucky. Later, I would study philosophy, but we were philosophers first, we were seekers. That’s what we did. There is absolutely no replacement for that kind of thing.
As we gain hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, it appears that we are losing real friends and best friends. The book Born for Love reports that “80% of Americans say that the only people whom they feel close enough to confide in are family members. A full quarter say that they trust no one at all with their intimate secrets. The proportion of people with no close friends or family members tripled between 1985 and 2004” (3). This is sad. Who are we without our friends?
Aristotle said “when men are friends they have no need for justice.” He’s right. Friends would make the perfect government and the most peaceful foreign relations. It’s a type of love filled with respect and mutual understanding. Justice and fairness and good government, on the other hand, all depend on a vague respect for humanity among strangers. This is hard, abstract, large. It’s much harder to betray your friend than to betray, say, those Mexicans over there — which explains our harsh immigration laws. Your friend has a face. You have to see them tomorrow.
In high school my best friend became addicted to pills. LIke all addictions, lying and stealing followed. I slowly distanced myself. I’m ashamed at my lack of bravery to face the situation. But it seems that friends either grow together or grow apart. Like a marriage, they become one or divorce. Aristotle said that only people with similar virtues can be friends. At that specific moment in time, we have different virtue, different habits. You can only be friends with someone you truly respect. But deep down in my heart I knew that Aristotle’s love was, in a way, superficial; that real love transcends pill addictions, stealing, and lying. I had failed one of my first tests. Jesus forgave his killers, and I couldn’t have a conversation. Yet the love for my friend still lives on in my heart, indomitable, lasting, filling my dreams and memories. I would reach out to him from time to time, years later. I said I was sorry for not being there. Of course he understood. His heart was large. I’m sure he thinks about me from time to time, has a flashback of some ridiculous phrase we used to say.
Our past girlfriends and lovers make permanent and beautiful marks on us. As I’ve mentioned in a past post, I find this utterly amazing. I celebrate it. One night, for no particular reason, I wrote this email to an ex-girlfriend:
“It’s so amazing that love seeps into our souls and never leaves. The love I had for you, although gone, remains, as it does for all the people I’ve loved. I find that such an amazing thing, that the people we love we always love, even if we never speak to them again. There is no stopping it, is there? My subconscious still dreams about you, and I still think about you. I have a happy life and a happy marriage, as I’m sure you do too. I’m so happy that I have no hard feelings at all about my past, and I hope you do too, and I just felt it necessary to express this as life is short, perhaps as a testament to the most amazing thing in this world–love. I felt it necessary to express the real joy of life.
God bless you [her name] and no response needed!”
That was five years after not speaking to her. Love could care less about the boundaries of time and space, even of people. I didn’t send that email, thinking it may have been selfish. But we all have these emails, written on our hearts. It’s funny. Old people warn young people that sex is a special thing. They’re right.