Friendship, love and erstwhile acquaintances

Forgive me for starting rather simply, and at the same time rather profoundly by asking, “What is friendship?”. When are two people said to be friends? Is it a subjective standard or experience, as in “He’s my friend”, or is it an objective experience as in “They are friends”? Both standards have their problems. But surely, an objective standard of friendship is more beneficial to society. It offers up an expected pattern of behavior from persons you expect to be friendly with, or who are friendly with you. A subjective standard need not always be reciprocated. Is one-sided friendship, indeed a friendship? Its the same question with love. One-sided love is often scoffed at and ridiculed by modern culture. In fact, if anything this culture would definitely have the inclination to call it some form of rape, if the side that loves is a man and the side that doesn’t is a woman. All this is perhaps in response to the mere fact that one-sided love or friendship is a sad phenomenon. The breaking of trust, or even the event of not gaining the trust of person who has gained yours, is an unfortunate circumstance. These are especially problematic forms of friendships because when the person realizes this lack of trust, he almost always reacts very badly. Its either to overburden yourself on the person, so as to ensure that they turn to you to help at some point (the act of being overbearing) or it is to seek the reason or truth of the lack of trust. Therefore, this either results in an unnatural friendship (assuming there exists something called an organic and natural friendships), or the end of the friendship (which might be somewhat beneficial). But from the vantage point of a subjective experience, these two outcomes are never happy ones. Therefore, much alike beauty, there must be some objective standard of friendship. The objectivity of such a standard, may be limited to the two people who are friends, which means that they both had the same subjective standards of each other’s actions. This actions extrapolated over time and space, becomes a largely similar standards of friendship across societies. The same applies for love, and for every other basis of human relations.

The next question becomes what constitutes an acceptable standard of behavior to be determined by society. Whether a friendship is organic or does it have to be manufactured? Is the former better than the latter? Is the latter one a surrogate until the former comes along? If so, does the latter have to give way for the former if such coming along only occurs to one person within the friendship? Once again, love is a parallel. If you don’t find love, settle. Isn’t that the age old lesson taught by the existence of arranged marriages? And as a proponent of the matrimonial institution, arranged marriages are very good ones. Perhaps all these Di-Choice Questions are the age old conundrum of quality versus quantity. While that thought applies to love, it perhaps does not apply to friendships as commonly as it does to love. The stereotype is that organic friendships always lead to the creation of strong bonds. Perhaps there is more truth in this, than in the stereotype that love leads to living a life happily ever after. May be the manufacturing of a friendship, leads to a greater number of low quality friendships. A life led with such friendships rather seems to be a cold and lonely one. To not have a special friend, or a group of close friends seems once again, very sad. The most common form of friendship would be in the form of erstwhile acquaintances. These are people who have one very similar interest, but rarely anything else in common. These are the people with whom one loses touch with after going off to college or to work. It is this test of going away that ends up shining light on the kind of friendship you had. Upon realizing that both of you didn’t have as close a friendship as y’all thought you had, the reaction is disappointment. This largely means that the friendship was organic within the limit environment of the workplace/ educational institution. But the only thing that made it organic was the objective experience of the institution. The idea of finding everlasting love or of finding a friend with whom everything clicks immediately and for a great period of time, therefore seems almost utopian. The devil in this being the ‘almost’ which makes such a notion reasonable and warranting expectation. You seek this in every relation you have, and therefore, the slightest sign of kindness is misinterpreted as the signal towards relationship perfection. This is very prevalent in today’s world, perhaps partly due to the fact that people are so starved of kindness nowadays. But it is perhaps partly narcissism too, that ‘I am perfect enough to be fallen in love with, or to automatically find a natural friendship without having to work for it’. All of this confusion is the result of the romaticisation of the idea that love is something that is organic, or even that friendship is something organic and unique to the friendship. While that may be true for some, for most it provides no guidance in the eventuality that such organic stuff does not happen. The desperation find such organic forms of relations often lead to the neglecting of existing relations with acquaintances and ‘lower quality’ friends. Its been said that the depths of Shelly’s Ozymandias recognize the ravages of time and that it destroys everything. Therefore, time requires effort, and sculpting. Unfortunately, the end result being the by-product of the truism that effort is the antithesis of the organic.

It has been said that the type of human relations you keep define the sort of human you are. In other words, you are defined by the company you keep. Hence, in my book, an organic friendship tells me absolutely nothing about you, and tells me that you’re one of the fortunate ones. It does not inspire any attempt to further get to know you. A cultivated friendships or ‘love’ tells me more about the kind of person you are, and your priorities. Why is this particularly relevant? It is because it is the three things mentioned in the title that form the basis for social solidarity and cohesion. Acquaintances are perhaps the easiest forms of relations to form expectations about as it is essentially one step away from a contract, literally. Furthermore, it is governed by various laws regarding the workplace. An ‘acquaintancy’ that does not follow these rules often fall under the garb of a friendship. It is this that perhaps is the most common form of friendship, at least for me. This is the spring for all the doubt arising the nature of friendships. Inorganic or organic Friendships of a limited nature are therefore, also relatively easy to form. The problem of expectation arises with organic friendships and love. The end is always expected and hoped for, but the map of the path is as corrupted as the expectation itself. Furthermore, it is a self-made portrait of yourself with another person, and therefore, is very rarely connected to reality and is often heartless to the other person. All of this is exacerbated by modernity’s constant appeal to refrain from ‘settling’. One deserves love and close friendships. Once again, elements of the previously discussed narcissism begin to arise. Modernity’s distressing trend of constantly focusing on rights and entitlements is at the root of this narcissism- “I am entitled to be loved”. The problem with this is that the real world rarely is so kind. In the face of the horrors of normality, the reaction of such people is nihilism and a culture of sexual frivolity. In relation to friendships, the end result is that people no longer work at friendships, they no longer do something without expecting anything back immediately. If they don’t click with anyone, they reject every avenue of friendship. This is further romanticised by the meme culture of asking people to accept such attitudes of solitude and loneliness. As a result, today’s society has a pandemic of both idealistic people who expect organic friendships all the time, and pessimistic people who reject most ideas of friendship until the organic friendship reveals itself to them. Although the latter is not really pessimistic, as they continually believe in the ideal of organic relations. A pessimist would forsake that idea and work at their existing friendships, to at least bolster them to some extent from obliteration. A constant belittling of mediocrity and idle postulating lies at the heart of this pandemic. The lack of a reasonable objective standard of friendship also contributes immensely. The solution, therefore, seems to me to be as usual the answer of pessimism. The pessimist takes what the world gives, and does not expect much. A pessimist works at his friendships, knowing that it cannot get better without a major stroke of fortune. It would be foolish hence, to leave something as precious as social cohesion in the hands of something as fickle as fortune.

GordonW

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