Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Long Conversation of Friendship

Yesterday I was reading some of Phillip Lopate's essays from his collection Against Joie de Vivre. His essay about essays, "What Happened to the Personal Essay?" grated on my nerves a bit, mostly cause he's a little too critical of my man E.B., but mostly I really admire his style. He even manages to find deeper meaning in shaving off his beard. I dig it.

The excerpts below (all emphasis is mine) are from Lopate's essay, "Modern Friendships," and it's one of those essays that I keep flipping back to and reading again. Maybe because I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately, and more specifically, how to maintain friendships. I guess I used to think it would be easier as I got older. Turns out, it's not. It can be downright tricky, as a matter of fact. Like Lopate writes, "Though it is often said that with a true friend there is no need to hold anything back ... Certain words maybe be too cruel if spoken at the wrong moment ... I also find with each friend, as they must with me, that some initial resistance, restlessness, psychic weather must be overcome before that tender ideal attentiveness may be called forth."

Here are more of Lopate's thoughts on friendship, what he describes as "a long conversation":

"Since we cannot be polygamists in our conjugal life, at least we can do so with friendship. As it happens, the harem of friends, so tantalizing a notion, often translates into feeling pulled in a dozen different directions, with the guilty sense of having disappointed everyone a little. It is also a risky, contrived enterprise to try to make one's friends behave in a friendly manner toward each other: if the effort fails one feels obliged to mediate; if it succeeds too well, one is jealous."

"When I think about the qualities that characterize the best friendships I've known, I can identify five: rapport, affection, need, habit, and forgiveness. Rapport and affection can only take you so far; they may leave you at the formal , outer gate of goodwill, which is still not friendship. A persistent need for the other's company, for their interest, approval, opinion, will get you inside the gates, especially when it is reciprocated. In the end, however, there are no substitutes for habit and forgiveness. A friendship may travel for years on cozy habit. But it is a melancholy fact that unless you are a saint you are bound to offend every friend deeply at least once in the course of time. The friends I have kept the longest are those who forgave me for wronging them, unintentionally, intentionally, or by the plain catastrophe of my personality, time and again. There can be no friendship without forgiveness." 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post.. Very true..previously I didn't understand the need component but your writing makes it clear. :)