Friends

Windy-Day-in-Auxerre-Chaim-SoutineI’ve been thinking about friendship the last couple days–reading a book about it, talking with a couple friends.

One of my observations is that I could hope for more for my commitments to others.

This isn’t new. I’ll never forget the time a very good friend told me I was his “best friend, the best friend [he] ever had.” Boom.

Even though he was running a fever and, delirious, groaned this utterance out the hole in a hoody I had just lent him, I cringed.

I had just given him a sweatshirt. Now we were married. A moment ago I had been making fun of his bronchitis. I’m sorry, friend, if you are reading this.

But our hearts, mine included, want and need friendship. There is something eternally significant in Jesus calling his disciples his friends. Movies about two friends are always the saddest.

For me, this desire can take me to strange places. Where I don’t just want the friends I have but a vision of all that they could be–someone who heals my pain, who reads all the books I like, who doesn’t recommend any books (that would be tiresome), who always makes me laugh or sees deep things in every word or breath, and who gives me social status (the deal-breaker). Either that or my vision of friendship narrows to the expectation that my friends help me pass the time and make life feel better for a while. (This also seems to be about social status.)

When I was about to turn nineteen, I gave voice to some of these longings in a poem–the image of a classmate smoking a cigarette as the “dreamed companion/who holds repressions in his hands.” I think the feeling was about the smoke too as a kind of friend. It’s easy to see how this vision of friendship is probably not good for people–something I probably realized at the time.

Neither the dreamed companion or the friend who serves repressions–the friend I see only as a Platonic form or the friend I don’t even look at because they’re just here to eat cheeseburgers with–neither of these visions really have to do with my friends. They’re more about a part of myself that needs to grow–or heal, be transformed even.

Which brings me back to my original observation: I need to commit more to others. Because I can hope for more from my friendships. Because I can hope to give a lot more of myself to my friends.