I recently went to a bookstore just to browse when I found a book entitled The Heart of a Friend. It is a used book published in 1973 that compiled different quotes and sentiments about friendship. The quotes range from Oscar Wilde to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and even a few anonymous ones. Being that the book was published so long ago, the quotes contained in the book are more likely to be verified and tenable unlike the quote-mania of today plastered all over Facebook and throughout the internet. In any case, here was a book dedicated to the concept of friendship. The interesting thing about this book is that it is only sixty-two pages long. So far I’ve read a few pages and each quote shares a different philosophy of friendship.
Some quotes present friendship as light of healing and comfort between individuals while others talk of the process and trials of friendship. There are other quotes that address love between individuals, mostly between men and women. Each quote highlights some aspect of friendship. The philosophies presented have given me plenty of introspection, especially in today’s times where people are more often distant from each other than before.
People in today’s times are more about accessorizing rather than appreciating and accentuating their lives in kindness. I look at people out in the world and all I really see are people accessorizing themselves with other people, not people being friends with others. It’s like those poster ads for T-Mobile or some other cellphone service: it’s all a bunch of young people all laughing wearing trendy clothes showing off their gadgets and just how fashion-y they are with them. Honestly, I don’t know anybody who lives like that or has that kind of experience with other people. Most of the time, I see people burying their heads in those things and never once looking at the people around them. It’s a far cry from whatever T-Mobile or any other cellphone service is advertising to people. I can tell you right now, I have T-Mobile and I don’t live like that.
Although some people have a general definition of what a friend is, most of the time they don’t honor that definition and instead proceed to take for granted these people they supposedly call friends. Because those “friends” are mere accessories, they can go out of style and be replaced by more in-style accessories or “friends” as might be euphemistically called. When those friends get booted out, they can go find other “friends” to accessorize themselves with and there go a whole civilization of people accessorizing themselves with each other until there is no one left to accessorize with.
Modern media coupled with people’s use of the internet is part of what has made this possible. It is not the internet itself but the way people have used it. Along with the internet, people’s use of cellphone technology has made this possible as well. Frankly, it is much easier to prostrate and hide oneself and to showcase an idea of what a life is like behind a screen. It is much easier to feign importance behind a cellphone than to actually be a human being in front of everyone. Honest communication between people is scarce nowadays. It isn’t easy, especially with so many people afraid to live up to the bravado of their appearance on Facebook. What I have found is that any real essence of friendship or human expressions of bonding is quickly rejected as “creepy” and an invasion of “privacy” by a great majority of the industrial population. In my book, I talk about why that is the case.
My question is, where would those so-called “friendships” be without any of this stuff? Without cellphones or social-media, how would friendships evolve? People would still talk on the phone, at least. Granted, they wouldn’t be able to take their house phone outside and take a picture of themselves eating cake with it but it would be used as it was intended to be used- as a form of conveying a vocal communication with someone else. That is why it was called a telephone when it was patented and not a “would-be-tele-camera.” Ultimately, individuals would talk more to each other than they do now. Even with all the fancy what’s-its out there than can do this and that with the intention of more open communication between people, people rarely use it for that and instead use it as a screening device for who they want to accessorize themselves with for that moment.
In reading some of these quotes from the book, the sentiments are often quite beautiful and poignant. For example, a quote from an anonymous source in the book which states as a poem:
God never loved me in so sweet a way before
‘Tis He alone who can such blessings send
And when His love would new expressions
He brought thee to me and He said-
“Behold a friend.”
I believe no one would dare speak in such an eloquent manner today, especially when speaking of friends. Nowadays, slang and improper English are so common I’m surprised people still know to use the language in the first place provided they’re not using an expletive every other word. Likewise, many people like to present things as “gay” just because two individuals of the same gender have a relation of some kind with each other. This is what bored people do. Regardless, the above poem is a wonderful way of describing friendship. Perhaps in another part of the world where despite the trials of life people can still appreciate the presence of another. However in this part, I don’t think anyone would be that brave to describe their friendship with another in such a manner. Obviously, the dynamics of human relations have changed all around but that is no reason to limit other possibilities of existence. Impractical or not, the ability to express and appreciate another in a manner other than coldly using racial slurs or improperly annunciating the word “brother” is always possible.
On a personal note, there was a time in my younger days when I used to call up friends and be ready to go out in a few minutes. I had plenty of girlfriends and a few guy friends and most of the time they’d be ready to hang out and go watch a movie or have dinner. I generally had a nice time. However when I moved to California, all that changed. The dynamic was different. In my mind, friendship was friendship and I thought that all people were fine to hang out. I found out that wasn’t the case and for many reasons. For every ten calls I made, nine would not pick up if not all of them. I left messages but rarely, if ever, had a call returned. If I did have a call returned, there was no invitation to hang out. I learned that many people were apparently too busy to hang out, or so I was told. I got the hint eventually that people did not want to hang out with me for “x” reason so I stopped calling. I have since moved back home and have found that even there the dynamic had changed to be similar to what it was in California. That is only because so many people from California have moved here and polluted the mentality of others with their uppity Disneyland attitude.
Nowadays, I don’t call anyone for anything (unless it is business related) and I take the sights by myself rather than with other people. The truth is that I believe when I call, I’ll be interrupting some precious something someone is doing and they’ll be too busy to talk. About as much interaction as I get is on Facebook and that’s not much to talk about, either. People I have known for years growing up barely acknowledge me on Facebook. I’m on their “friends” list and they occasionally “like” a picture I put up but that’s it. I make an effort to write and comment but with rarely a response. This experience and others like it is a far cry from that beautiful poem from earlier. If I wrote a poem about my experiences, it would be much different. As a side note, I don’t mind having Facebook but I don’t believe I’ll have it forever. I don’t have that many people as “friends” on it anyway so it makes little to no difference whether or not I have it.
I recorded a podcast where I talk about an experience I had with someone while waiting for the train and in the process of inviting a friendship, they said no because they were in a “weird place.” I honestly don’t know what the fuck that means but they said it, a “weird place.” That may very well have been an excuse not to associate with someone new for that person. I spoke to another individual I met at a grocery store he works at. We have friendly conversation and we have talked about getting together but there has been no attempt to do so on either of our parts until I sent a message a few days ago, finally breaking the silence and starting a new bond with this person. Unsurprisingly, there has been no response from them. Truth be told, I am at a loss to know how to associate or connect with others so I continue my journey alone. This is not a sad or depressing thing but the way things are functioning right now. I’m not unhappy about it but it would be nice to break the routine of always hanging out by myself and finally add a new person in the picture.
Even trying things like reconnecting and forgiveness have not worked in establishing connections with others. I have tried to reconcile and reconnect with one specific individual for almost seven years to no avail. I have written letters (ACTUAL letters, not e-mails or texts), placed calls, sent messages through other people, and absolutely nothing has worked. While growing up, I heard a lot of lessons on being a “good” person, how to be a friend to someone, how to treat people, etc. These are lessons I learned when I used to go to church and in school. The sad part is that despite trying everything I could to reach out and reestablish a connection, none of the lessons from the past have worked to bring this individual to friendship and reconciliation. It is quite sad but that is how it has unfolded. I believe it is a loss for both of us to be distant for no reason. What I have done may be seen as objectionable and even pushy to some people. However, I would say that someone buried so deep in the superficiality of today’s trendy aloofness would see it that way. I just hope that the individual I’ve been trying to reconnect with is taken care of and safe.
I had another experience with a guy named Christopher whom I used to be friends with. We hadn’t been friends for very long, maybe a year or two. We knew each other somewhat intimately but we talked and hung out on a few occasions. In that time, I noticed some imbalances in our relationship which I wanted to address. I finally got the confidence to write him a letter (again, an ACTUAL letter penned in my handwriting) telling him how I felt. He received the letter and I think I only talked to him once since then but I haven’t heard from him after that. They say the test of a true friend is how they are in times of difficulty. Christopher ran away because he could not handle being criticized for his handling of the friendship. I was not unkind in the letter but I was honest and he did not have the stomach to deal with it.
One of the quotes from this book about friendship is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The quote states:
Talk not of wasted affection! Affection never
If it enrich not the heart of another, its
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill
them full of refreshment:
That which the fountain sends forth returns
again to the fountain.
People in the industrial world reason themselves into being aloof and distant from one another because media and their immediate environment presents it. They’re so carried away by the way the world is (but doesn’t have to be) that they don’t think in another way. Through these experiences, I’ve learned to assert myself more and to be more self-sufficient than dependent on others. Nowadays, I feel like trusting people is putting your personal safety on the line and ensuring failure. That is not what human connections are about but they have been turned into that. Friendship, or rather what is called “friendship” in today’s time, is a risky thing. Friendship isn’t supposed to be risky; it is supposed to be a haven of repose and security. Friendship is the exchange of ideas into developing well-being. Honest friendships flow naturally like water from a spring. Nowadays, people just relate points to each other and, again, accessorize themselves with others. If that is what friendship is in today’s time, I’m glad I’m not a part of it.
Being a better friend doesn’t mean having your back stepped on but it does mean having an empathic understanding of the relationship. I think if that bit of reasoning was introduced again to people, they would use their mental and physical devices to better serve the purpose of friendship. There is still time, despite what is seen. I think that people are unfamiliar with it because of all the crap that is out there they ingest but that’s on them. They create a world where accessorizing people is validated. Nowadays, parents treat their children like they treat their cellphones and so people treat each other like cellphones.
In the end, I believe the process of natural selection will eventually eliminate those mentalities in favor of those who openly choose to accept a different and more life-affirming mindset. Perhaps we could all use a 44-year-old book on friendship that’s sixty-two pages long. Its thoughts may snarl some people in disgust of how sappy it may be but it may also compel others to look at humans in different ways. None of us are “perfect,” whatever that means, but like I said earlier we can all try to be better friends and build a better life at any moment.