How you are my friend

by Kermit Kefafel, April 1, 2013

So, okay, no man is an island.  And when the bell tolls, it tolls for all of us.

But do we all have to be friends? Of course not.

For one, friendship is not a choice.  It just happens.  It is quite possible that two people are friends but don’t know that they are.  They may see each other in some other relationship, like father-son or politician-voter, etc., but when friendship happens, the two friends simply are.

So, exactly, if it were definable, what is a friend?  I think friends are those who enjoy each other’s ‘alive-ness.’  You can enjoy Buddy Holly, but if he didn’t know you when he was still alive, you can’t be friends.  But this just pushes the definition question to outer space: What is enjoyment?  There I stop.  That’s the primitive in the friendship definition.

Here are a few random ‘facts’ about friendship:

Only peers can be friends.  Inequality kills friendship. A person in need is usually not a friend; he’s just needy.   But a rich man can friend a poor man if they were equal on some other footing, like skill at eight ball. This means, intellectually, I can’t be friends with the folks at rappler.com.  They think they’re thought leaders, so I must be a follower.  Tough beans.

You can’t have too many friends.  Any one who says he has lots of friends lies.  Why is this?  This is so because, as I said earlier, friendship just happens.  And somehow the gods of friendship require that you be able to count your friends easily. How can you ‘enjoy’ someone you can’t even remember? This is also so because equality is a precarious balance, an uneasy equilibrium.  That also means an enemy can be a friend.

Friends respect each other’s relationships with others.  This follows from the selective (though not by choice) but peer nature of friendship. Peers let peers do their thing. And pears let apples be.

Even more importantly, friends value each other’s privacy. Every act of friendship that involves an ‘opening up’ is only through mutual consent.  You can’t even ‘confess’ a secret to a friend who doesn’t want to listen (because that’s the way he/she might be at that time). And of course, one who feels entitled to crash in on you at any time is not a friend but one who abuses the idea of friendship.  Bottom-line neologism: Friends, more than others, understand and maintain fences and boundaries.

An especially good kind of friendship is the low-maintenance plug-in plug-out kind.  You haven’t seen this friend in years.  And yet, you meet and it was as though it was yesterday that you last saw each other.  This has a down side.  When such a friend dies, sometimes it takes a while before you can grieve because you may not know about it for a while. This happened to me, so I know how tough that is.

Love and friendship are not the same.  Can they mix? Only if lovers understand boundaries, and usually they don’t.

Very few of even your ‘close friends’ on Facebook are your friends.  Some of your friends on Facebook are your enemies.  Beware.  I wrote this note on April 1, 2013 (that’s a double-whammy in the superstition derby).

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