Thursday, October 8, 2009

On Friendship

I have a dear friend (let's call her "J") who lives far away... we only see each other rarely, and that is a Sad Thing. But fortunately, the wonders of modern technology allow us to keep in touch through email and chat software (and yes, Facebook too). We were chatting one afternoon about friendship. How on earth did we become friends in the first place? I love college football... she, not so much. She's a scientist. I'm an English major-librarian. And the list goes on. We became friends because of the Farm - the philosopher and I bought a share in a community-supported-agriculture farm and we split the share with J. So every weekend we'd go to the farm to pick the produce of the week, and we talked. She and I would talk about things light and deep, and she and the philosopher would talk about... well... philosophy and education and the nature of Man. (And I gotta say I admire her because who else do I know that is a brilliant scientist and likes to read Augustine??) So not only are she and I good friends, she is also friends with my husband - and that makes it doubly wonderful!

She recently moved to a new city, and we are both (still) struggling with the notion of making "local friends." We're both introverted, which only makes the process that much more daunting. How do you develop friendships? How do you connect with those with whom you have a common interest? Being a librarian, I decided to do some research. (Heh.) Here are some thoughts I've gleaned...

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, says: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one!" He goes on: "The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends... There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice."

Aristotle (my philosopher's favorite philosopher - he will be so proud!) says this in the Nichomachean Ethics of "Perfect Friendship": "That such friendships are rare is natural, because men of this kind are few. And in addition they need time and intimacy; for as the saying goes, you cannot get to know each other until you have eaten the proverbial quantity of salt together. Nor can one man accept another, or the two become friends, until each has proved to the other that he is worthy of love, and so won his trust. Those who are quick to make friendly advances to each other have the desire to be friends, but they are not unless they are worthy of love and know it. The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but friendship does not."

Ah, that last is the key, I think, for me. "The wish for friendship develops rapidly, but the friendship does not." Just because you seek friendship, doesn't mean it will happen overnight. You can't "force" a friendship. As I said to J during our conversation: "Friendship is an art, not a science." There's not a magic formula you can follow, like the book title says, to "win friends and influence people". There's a lot of commentary out there about what friendship is, but not a lot about how to develop friendships. And that's because it is by its nature different for every person.

This is why the G.S.E. has been so important. We, the philosopher and I, need to find a church where we can meet people and get to know them. (That's why small groups are near the top of the list of things we hope to find.) You can't walk into a room and think "I'll be friends with that person over there" and then go over and introduce yourself. You meet people, you talk, you get to know each other, and finally you find that person and say, like C.S. Lewis, "I thought I was the only one!"

So for you, my far-away friends, I give thanks to God every day. Your friendship continues to sustain me as the philosopher and I seek the path God has planned for us. So I offer up two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

One for guidance
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And one for our far-away friends
O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


JAG said...

Warm fuzzies and a hug, Z :-)

I am glad to call you friend.

Blondie said...

(Preface: My RSS feed does not seem to be working. I just realized you had posted something new.)

*hugs* to both of you. I can identify with the search for a new church and the awkwardness of making new friends. BUT...Since I haven't actually moved cities in more than 16 years, I still have my core group of friends (and pretty much none of us are in the same church).

There's a purpose in this search/struggle - I just don't know what it is!

I'm glad to call you friend, too!