Dec. 28th, 2005 09:27 pm
[personal profile] lhexa

There is a trembling, a happy shiver some call it, that comes from a touch. To be great music, in fact, a song needs only touch you. Sing along with such a song; if it reaches you, you will shiver, though the feeling may not be a happy one. An affectionate friend, however, can do without trouble what it takes a songwriter all her life to do, and even though a moment of affection touches only once, only lightly... I value it above the stars. Yet to give affection, to be on the other side of the touch, is as much a blessing. Just as one must lower one's defenses, (and sing along with the song,) in order to truly be touched, being able to reach out, span a distance, and make contact, is a thing of difficulty. The person who gives and receives affection freely and frequently, and without insincerity, is a rare one, and the subject of strong emotion. But then, there are also the unexpected moments of affection and intimacy, the liberating ones, to be considered; these shake you, shiver you, more strongly than anything casual. A friend breaks through to you with words that resonate, where anyone else would use a hammer. It's friends who keep you from becoming trapped in yourself.

I tend to be undignified around friends. When the goal is to have fun, it's wise to forget for the moment about philosophy and physics. Not that dignity is requisite for either subject; it's just that the excessive dignity one too often finds in their devotees is incompatible with having fun. Dignity, in general, gets in its way. Fun requires light pleasures, treated with levity. This in turn requires a willingness to shift conversational topics as attention shifts, start and stop games casually, and enjoy whatever it is a friend brings to you, for your pleasure and his. Beyond that: once a comfortable situation has been established, high spirits and unreserved antics can carry the day. They can carry it well into the night, in fact. It speaks against the worth of dignity, that it creates distance when closeness would only bring harmless pleasure. When distance comes easily to you, beware the ways in which you increase it.

The feeling of kinship is a strong one, one that makes friends, yet it is not enough to create close friendships. It is the feeling of seeing in another person something both familiar and familial, which leads you to acquire a close interest in that person's success, a hope for her future, that mirrors the ambitions for your own. In this situation you are ideally situated to appreciate the words and actions of your friend, but not in an ideal situation for helping out, for you face the same recurrent troubles, equally unresolved, equally overwhelming, and equally indispensable. Moreover, though your friend will have to solve these same problems, it will ultimately be in a different way, for you both chose uniqueness for your futures. So much for similarity as the universal basis of friendship. But this sort of friend is ideal for times of desolation, when the feeling that the failure always skirted is imminent, or that yours is a spirit unsuited for this world. Somewhere out there is the same spirit in a different form: thus there is one less sense in which I am alone. Somewhere out there is a different form for the same spirit, a form that might be better fitted for survival than mine, or worse; heaven knows there are too few such spirits, for any two to risk their lives in the same way.

The project worked on together is special, not for being better than an individual one, in which you shouldn't compromise yourself or your ideals, but for being something in which compromise creates a greater whole. Even when the project goes on without a terminus in view, and acquires a feeling of endlessness, every stage of it produces something valuable for the creators, given that a shared interest and enthusiasm is what brought us together. This benefit is a set of insights into how another person labors, how that person thinks on matters both mundane and grand, and what that person regards as beautiful. And what these insights teach is the ability to discuss, and compromise, with this other person, and in the end create something that both find beautiful. A long history of such interactions also produces a unique camaraderie, one picked up easily after long absences: how is that eternal project going?

New topics for conversation can, and indeed must, always be thought up, as every old topic will be exhausted sooner or later. The work of discussion never ends, even after its present materials run out. But it must be asked: is friendly debate as frivolous as it seems? That it's enjoyable isn't to be denied, but arguing amiably with a friend seems like an etiolation of the purpose of debate: to push truth forward. It sometimes feels like preparing for a scrutiny that will never come. Yet then, why question the pleasure of discussion? Isn't the feeling of presenting ideas to a friend justification enough? I don't know how to answer, for it is a feeling of incompleteness, or shallowness, that nags at me. It's like skimming over the surface of something deep: the same territory, but without the struggle, the plunge that I expect. But when the mind of a friend is such a bright one, I must accept that darkness gets neglected. With an enthusiasm that turns every topic into something curious, and a rationality that isn't shaken or diminished by any subject matter, such a friend scatters your driving emotion, whatever its force, leaving you able to talk about it calmly for a short period of time. There's no danger of losing something important: the emotion will reassemble soon enough.

As well suited as the progression of seasons is for most timekeeping, it is the coming and going of friends that divides the eras of one's spirit. Here a new one came, and showed you a new kind of happiness; there, an old friend dropped from contact, leaving only memory. But, what memory! It comes from a time when your perception was more direct, and your emotions more simple; should that friend ever return, if even for a single day, his recollections will be able to revive within you the transitory experience of being younger. I've spoken often enough of how, with the aid of time, I've identified the bad in my past, and slowly done away with much of it. But what I rarely discuss, due to a habit of unbalanced self-criticism, is how much of the good in my past has survived the transition to my present. Old friends remind me both of what I was then (not to mention how I made myself, and what I did, better, for another's sake), and of the continuity with every past self, a cord that has thus far not been severed. For this... thank you.

The moral distinction between friendship and love, in which all close acquaintances are to be divided into friends or lovers, lest they fall into a deadly No Man's Land in between, is one of the few that I reject outright. Perhaps it is because one side of that pair is likely to remain absent from my life, or perhaps it's simply because I'm a furry. Instead of following this restriction, I recognize a variety of emotional attachments and a variety of ways in which to be attracted to a person; none of these are to be regarded as the special domain of love. (Would love, then, be a matter of degree (rather than kind), a matter of completeness, a matter of permanence, or what? I can't answer, obviously. It's awkward to hold opinions about it, in the first place.) Thus I do not hold to any set of categories for, or distinctions between, types of friends; only sometimes do I distinguish between close friends, and those who aren't close. However, my feelings do not always agree with me here, and (not consistently, mind you) provide a clear way of distinguishing between the friends of whom I'm fond, and those for whom I'm more-than-fond. I will fantasize about future moments with some, and not fantasize about them with others. To provide a brief, incomplete list of situations I've recently given life and hope to within my mind: being introduced to a new form of art; showing off the marvels of a physics laboratory; helping out with financial troubles; saving a friend from physical danger; being held in a time of pain; showing off odd pieces of clothing; making a video of my dog and I playing at wolves, then giving it away; meeting new and wonderful people through a friend; and finally, heh, presenting, after long work and thought, a piece of writing that touches personally. For the past, there are pride and nostalgia; for the present, contentness and fun. Consciousness of the future, too, has unique joys to offer.

The great harm in suffering is not that it hurts, for pain isn't permanent, but rather that it is so difficult not to pass on. Great respect is given to the person who endures many trials, but refuses to treat others the way he was treated, and instead... chooses a different way to perpetuate the suffering; such a person says, these are my enemies (whom I will hurt with my words), these are the ideas I struggle against (may noone derive pleasure from them), this is how I've triumphed (not over pain, but over the prevailing reaction to pain). To be a dam or channel for humanity's impulses are equally unsatisfactory choices, when the river in question is a tainted one. I seek the alternative. I have not found it. But if you are my friend, then I want your help in finding it. Every theory we discuss, every experience we relate, every concept we entertain, every marvel we share, everything we say, every illocution we make, every perlocution we attempt, every feeling we emote, and every insight we bring, has a good chance of being the next movement (the next step, jump, stumble, flight) forward. There is no goal so distant that it cannot be reached via small advances.

There is one more thing that I want, but want shyly, in vain. I want you and I to face the world together, for alone I am weak, too weak for the place where my ambition will take me. I want you there with me. But that isn't going to happen; the beast that carries me where I want to go will not let you on its back. It is the exception when in the company of a friend I am not facing... away from the world. (That is the value of friendship to me.) We will never stand, at the same time and in the same place, face to face with the same fact. We have enough trouble facing each other, and seeing each other, for more than an instant. This I believe: friendship is so vulnerable to misunderstanding and despairing silence, because one's relationship with a friend is (in major ways) a purer, more intense, form of one's relationship with humanity. It is subject to the same perpetuation of suffering. And to be, together, in a place where our friendship can be a good one, one which will help us make the world better, there is only one thing that we need to tell each other, an epic task though it be to express and articulate fully: ...These are the conditions in which I thrive; do not undo them.

When everything seems to have delineated a fixed path now before you; when the sky is empty, the air cold, and yourself resigned to a lifetime's journey, spent afoot; then comes the time for friendship. It is the tremor that knocks you to the ground, yet causes no injury, and in truth, you are cuter off your feet than on.

Date: 2008-09-16 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think you strike an excellent balance between levity and seriousness, and I wouldn't call anything you do 'undignified', but that may just be my own lack of a foot in the dignified world speaking. :)

The flip side of dignity creating distance is that too much silliness can do the same thing. It becomes intrusive or obvious as the defense mechanisim that it is and can (deliberately or not) cut off communication. So I think the balance you strike is in the 'very good' range.

Is one's relationship to humanity maybe an abstract form of one's relationship with friends?, there's more to it than that, because that's a capital-I-Ideas-thing (and I don't know anyone who is close personal friends with the IDEA of a friend!), but I'm always drawn to reversing questions. :)

One of my friends has very strong negative reactions to impermanence. It is a scary thing, I definitely agree with that! It's frustrating that very trite responses (Live each day, etc) really ARE rational, useful responses, because I'd perfer to have an idea about the subject that dosen't come printed on doilies, but oh well, I guess I'll have to find my individualism elsewhere. ;) Acknowledgment of impermanence is useful if it gets me off my duff, though, so I'll take that! Being stunned into inactivity by it, THAT is ironic, scary and really sad. :/

I'm embarassed to quote pop music lyrics, but then I'm used to self-mockery, so:

"...only you, not face to face, but side by side forevermore."

(Emerson, Lake and Palmer) ...always struck me as a really nice sentiment. The notion that two people should form an isolated, complete world for each other, which I hear from different directions now and then (and I think I've been there myself) I do not see as desirable or good. Helping someone do the good they do, being open about admiration of thier passion, providing what small support one can to them as they pursue thier goals (which will sometimes vary from week to week!) is a Good Thing.

Very nicely expressed, sir. :)

Date: 2008-09-19 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Good point about silliness, though I think what you said covers superficiality in general. It allows one to avoid risks.

Well, I did have a qualification on that point about humanity. :) But it's meant to explain something very specific... namely, that the ways and reasons you might cause your friends pain (misunderstanding, diffidence, demands, thoughtlessness...) differ in magnitude but not in kind from the ways that humanity, overall, can cause you suffering. (The same comparison isn't true for the way friends bring you joy, by the way.) There is a human tendency to perpetuate suffering, perhaps as a way of ridding oneself (temporarily) of it, that is very widely sublimated in people's interactions.

"The notion that two people should form an isolated, complete world for each other, which I hear from different directions now and then (and I think I've been there myself) I do not see as desirable or good."

Likewise... but when I am facing the world, giving it my full regard, I am alone. This is a fact about me, not about friendship itself.

*hugs* Thanks for the comment.



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