Blog # 98 AMICUS

Another tribute to the uselessness and arrogance of aphorisms (Blog# 11) is “People judge you by your friends.” This instance of great judicial wisdom would predict that the perceived quality, positive or negative, of the people with whom you choose to associate, will be determinative of your evaluated worth. Unfortunately, this reductive phrase is as popular as it is ignorant.

Our theme here, however, centers on the word, “friend”, its defining characteristics and function.  In truth, the dynamics and role of this positive phenomenon may be the most salutary and life-affirming of all interactive relationships.

We would, perhaps too formally, define “friendship” as the recognized status of loyal relationship with common purpose. It may be distinguished from the word, “acquaintance” which we understand to be as well a relationship of familiarity, but with less depth and commitment. In “friendship” we not only recognize each other as a familiar, but are in such close interaction that we support each other’s personality and patterns of intimacy.

Friends can be observed in a myriad of categories, childhood friends (most, later become acquaintances), neighbor friends (example, young mothers with babies), family friends (rare), political and business friends, where common ties have morphed into friendship.

Friends with whom we frequently interact serve as consistent assurances and confirmation of our personal identity and self-image. Sometimes there are beliefs and behaviors that, in fact, are at variance with ours, but they too meet our expectations and so confirm our identity. Family friends may be less numerous and more complicated since they seem at times to depend upon loyal consensus of judgment concerning some historical fact or certain individuals.

Life without friends would be insular and lonely. It may be observed that our interaction with friends not only provides the office of confirming our self-image but also helps determine our tastes, opinions and to a certain extent, even our personal appearance. It is also the experience that it is somewhat comforting and calming to grow older with other contemporary familiars.

However, in fairness, friends are not the exclusive baseline for our take on reality. There are many significant relationships which fall short of the criteria for friendship but which do confirm us in our roles and identity. Neighbors, shopkeepers, barbers and hair dressers, bank clerks, newspaper salespeople, and the like, are all part of our regular dramatis personae, and by reason of their predictable presence and consistent function do confirm us in our familiar place in the scene.

As an illustrative example, we have observed a small group of commuter train riders who for many years occupy proximate seats so as to enable their participation in a regular game of cards on the way to Pennsylvania Station.  Despite the fact that this coterie has so participated for a great many years, little is in truth known, each about the other, with the exception of first names and little else concerning their personal lives; yet the early morning card game has become a matter of significant institutional importance to their life’s routine.

While interaction with friends is of inestimable value in the quality of our lives so, in the same way many of our casual, but regular, interactions with identifiable others, add zest and identifiable structure to our lives and should not be undervalued.

An interesting category of friendly relationship is the short-lived, temporary bond between fellow vacationers. In this situation, we have the opportunity to take particular notice of our own familiar social skills and personality in the ephemeral situation. It may be observed that irrespective of any and all sincere and energetic expressions of undertakings to perpetuate the relationship beyond the period of the holiday, such good intentions rarely materialize.

The exalted role of friends, and the more mundane existence of acquaintances, together play essential parts in life’s acceptable and positive scenario.



Blog # 97                 LIKENESS

This note is dedicated exclusively to the vastly underrated word, “like.” Our use of the word has no   relationship or connection with that word as used in face book patois to signify approval of, or agreement with, a particular post; nor is it related, in any way, to the too frequent use of that word, particularly by the younger set, as a constant preface to any statement to indicate emotional distance from the declaration and to preserve the fashionable suggestion of “cool.”

To our point, the word “like” seems, unjustly, to have been given a back seat to the more ethereal and much romanticized word, “love.” We would energetically and earnestly hold that, in the normal course of life, the word like proves to be more enduringly reliable and decisive.

We were sitting on a bus the other day in close proximity to two lovely late teen girls, engaged, apparently, in a most intense conversation. The quality of “intense” was deduced from the observation that, during the interaction, their noses were in dangerous proximity to each other. The salient utterance appeared to be a question posed by one to the other, as follows: “But do you like him, or do you like him like him?” We confess, it did take a few moments for a senior citizen, well outside the au courrant lingo, to comprehend the profundity of this question. As understood, if the response were, “I like him,” the immediate diagnosis of the extent of the relationship would conclusively be that of (mere) friendship; on the other hand, if the response were, “I like him, like him” love would be the communicated admission.

Many people, most especially the cohort of young adults, presumably aspiring to mates and family, would characterize the presence of intense attraction, sexual or otherwise, as love. Most plays, operas, songs, soaps, and literary works extol and transmogrify the concept. Although there seems to be no evidence of a workable translation of the word, it is universally understood to be the essential ingredient requisite to the establishment of an enduring relationship. Accordingly, the search for love, or its idealized conception is intense, concentrated and additionally, controversial.

In the context and setting of the family, the presence of “love” is implicitly assumed, virtually definitional and therefore not questioned, although it may not be the reality. In the setting of the long term relationship, one is seen to love his spouse or partner, as perceived as the societally accepted concomitant of the publicly recognized relationship.

Long established relationships, experiencing stresses, rendering mutual nursing services in instances of unpleasant or noxious illnesses, strains of child rearing and raising, financial stress, possible in-law problems, financial stresses and other such events, often result in a change in the nature of feelings, a more prosaic taking of each other for granted in respective roles and obligations; romanticized love is no longer an observable or felt phenomenon. Exotic and idealized notions of romantic love have morphed into a more practical and mundane dependence and long established familiarity.

We would maintain that the long enduring phenomenon, namely, liking each other, is the dependable adhesive holding relationships together and making for pleasant and desirable interaction. “Liking” is the most vital feature, it is reasonable, comprehensible and also noticeable.

In the case of sibling, or other assumed, familial love, do you really like your brother Freddy? In your relationship, do you honestly like your spouse or partner; do you enjoy his company, would you, in other circumstances, have chosen him for a friend?

We can offer no studies or statistical back up but would nevertheless, confidently hazard the proposition that most couples will stay together in their long term relationship, if they like each other and may well separate if they do not, irrespective of the element of “love.” Siblings and other familial relatives will happily and enthusiastically socialize, for other than mandatory major life events if they like each other.

“Like” outlasts outweighs and outperforms “love” by any rational or experiential measure.