Friendship is an essential safety net in life’s trapeze act. It is the theme for this month’s edition of The BeZine.
It is such an important feature of human existence that life would not be the same without it. In fact, I would argue that our lives would not continue, as we know it, without friendship. If this is to be fully understand, then we might have to get thoroughly psychoanalytical, but you can breathe a sigh of relief because, thankfully, I’m not qualified! In fact, it isn’t the purpose of this piece to answer the question why? It’s purpose, perhaps most importantly, is to recognise it and, above all, to celebrate it.
You know the friends you have and that they come in many different colours … incidentally, a thought just popped into my head. As a fan of poetry, I momentarily ponder on my metaphorical use of that word, ‘colour’ and I wonder what colour you would attach to each form of your own friendships?
Can you count how many of each of these you have in your life’s ‘address book’ … soul-mates, close friends, friends, acquaintances, people you’d like to know better, people you haven’t met but would like to, people with whom you share a passion, and, one of life’s great anticipations, people you’ve yet to meet, including those you may have come to know well through their writings on social media, but have never met? There is yet another, very important category of friendship, which I cannot find a name for. I was reminded of it just last week, when an old college friend of mine, whom I’d not seen for well over thirty years, arrived in our city and made contact.
It is the friend you got to know very well in your formative years, maybe at school or college, but one with whom you lost touch or simply haven’t crossed paths with for many years. When this type of friend arrives back in your life, doesn’t it seem just like you take up where you left off! Perhaps more astonishingly, in my experience, in spite of following different paths, you find that you still share a surprisingly common perspective and agreement on many aspects of life. This holds true for several of my old school and college friends, including my most recent encounter. This is the one kind of friendship that surprises me most. It does, perhaps, assert my view that the friendships we make in our formative years are the single most important determinant of the course of our future lives, careers and maybe even our health.
In reality, the fact that our childhood friendships run deeper than you’d expect, indicates a clear understanding of how vulnerable and influenceable we are then, to the influences around us; and there are no influences more powerful than our childhood mates, including those we’d like to have as mates.
My personal answers maybe these: I have one soul-mate, my wife. There are a handful of people who run close, as soul-mates, these are my own children and close family. Close friends are not those who necessarily were the blood brothers and soul sisters of our youth, principally because I and my wife didn’t stay in the places of our birth, we moved a lot throughout our early childhood and formative teenage years, but, for the most part, our close friends are those with whom we have grown up during the years of our arrival in adulthood and the growing up of our own children. Close friends are those that last through the years. They may not share a common passion, but have been there through all our trials and tribulations; their friendships transcend vested interest; perhaps for them, I should replace the word ‘passion’ with the words ‘shared challenges’.
The one kind of friendship, that has evolved particularly strongly recently, for us, are the voluntary and hobby groups with whom we have become associated since retirement. Volunteer work brings you into the company of like minded people; people who are prepared to give up their time for the benefit of others. They therefore tend to be a great bunch of people to be around; a group with whom you find common purpose. There can be no greater driver of harmony in the world than a worthy common cause.
For me, if there is a single most important group to evolve in this category of friendship, it is represented by the music groups of which I am, or have been a member, quartets, choirs and chorus with whom I sing. Singing in harmony, particularly a cappella, has no equal for me when it comes to making live music; just the human voice and a sharing of something that is sometimes difficult to describe except as a therapy, a gift or a very legal high! It forms bonds, not just within your own group, but across all groups, nationally and internationally.
I have been privileged enough to have experienced the so-called ‘Afterglow’ of performance with a Barbershop Chorus, at both national and international level, when, with beer in hand, you can walk around and drop in on any number of groups of singers, whom you may never have met before, and join in with their song. Likewise, you will welcome anyone from another group to your own, to do the same.
Isn’t this just one of the greatest ways to foster harmonious (a fine dual purpose word) international relations … and lasting friendships. It certainly has for me.
[Hallmark of Harmony at BABS 2016]
© John Anstie, essay and photograph