I consider myself very lucky to have a large group of friends. By this, I mean real friends, people you can really count on, confide your worst fears, and biggest secrets to. In the 21st Century, the whole understanding of what a friend is, and what it means to be someone’s friend, has been turned on its head. For the ‘Facebook’ generation, a friend is a number to add to your profile. They can be anyone you ever worked with, attended the same school as, or the second cousin of one of those people, who you met at a wedding for three minutes. Like the score on a video game, the accumulation of these so-called friends becomes an obsession that fails to even notice the very essence of the word and concept of friendship.
The sort of friends that I am talking about are the ones that would lend you their last £100. They would give you the keys to their car without question, or drive you anywhere, at any time that you asked. With them, you have a lifetime of credit, unspoken loyalty, and a bond, in every sense of that word. Perhaps this is what Love really means. My wife is undoubtedly my best friend, and I love her dearly. However, I have been married three times, yet my friends have remained constant. Frequent contact is not a requirement of friendship. You can be apart geographically, divided by Oceans, or live a few miles away, yet rarely manage to meet. It doesn’t matter. In your heart, at the back of your mind, they are always as close as can be.
Yet still, even the closest of friends fall into different categories. There are those that you consider equal in Life Experience, or abilities. Others are admired for the possession of intellect, or skills that you have never mastered. There are those that you have known all your Life, and others discovered more recently. They do not have to share the same Politics, or have similar opinions. It doesn’t matter if you like the same films, eat at similar restaurants, or read the same books. If you arrive at their house at midnight, covered in blood, and clutching a gun, they will help you, immediately, and without question. Discussion will be saved for later. Being you is enough. Shared experiences, a Lifetime of closeness, this is a currency that cannot be bought, only earned. In most of our lives, just being yourself is never going to cut it. You have to be something else at work, or at least appear to be. In family life, you often tolerate, rather than befriend, or love. Family has a commitment, a conscience, and you are a part of it, in a way that you never are with friends. That is why true friends are so different, and so valuable.
Many make the understandable mistake of considering colleagues as friends. You spend a lot of time with them, and you are usually working towards the same goals. You have the same enemies, and are part of the social structure around which which they revolve. But these people are not friends. leave the room for a moment, and your shortcomings will be mentioned immediately, and your bad habits broadcast to all. Confide in a colleague, and eventually, they will be unable to contain your secret. You can work alongside someone for many years, yet never really know them. This is not to say that colleagues cannot become friends. It is soon apparent that you get on better with some, than with others. After time, you can discover that the former colleague is now really classed as a friend, and the dynamic of your relationship will change immediately.
I am lucky enough to still have friends that I have known for almost fifty years. Some were school friends, other teachers at that school. A few were neighbours and playmates of my youth, or colleagues from years spent together in difficult and demanding jobs. One of these oldest, dearest, and most respected friends, is also a blogger. A man of experience, taste, and intellect. I recommend a read of his blog, and include the following link. (He has since sadly passed away)
I have had to accept changes in the way I keep in contact with those friends. Modern life, and technical innovations, mean that few write letters anymore. E mail and text messaging is more common now. Even the telephone is out of favour. It is too immediate, too involving. A letter or e mail allows thought and reflection, so will always be better than a ‘phone call. In the mobile phones that we use, and the e mail accounts that most of us have, we usually have a list of Contacts. In my lists, many of those Contacts are true friends. Most of them are not. I have the numbers and e mail addresses for the RAC, The Council, my Doctor, the Vet. These are Contacts, not friends.
Too many confuse the two. I do not.