Sunday, August 1, 2021, was celebrated as International Friendship Day 2021 in India. In some parts of the world, it was celebrated on July 30 as mandated by the 65th UN Session in 2011. It was first celebrated in Paraguay in 1958 for a very commercial reason – to augment the sale of friendship cards by Hallmark. That objective is now a dead end as both cards and friends have gone virtual and friendship itself has taken on a new meaning with Artificial intelligence on social media platforms finding new friends for you from around the globe every day. Open your FB page and you can find your tailor-made suggestions. Artificial Intelligence assumes that you can’t find or make your own and nowadays it might be true. It’s a skill most of us have lost.
I am celebrating it via my column today. Why I’m doing it is something I don’t understand because I might lose the friends I have, when they hear the home truths I must tell – but then again, I might make new ones, and that is a risk worth taking for friendship, don’t you think?
Forgive me for saying this, but Friendship Day was celebrated amid enmity everywhere – between individuals, between communities, between states, and between nations! the friendliest place perhaps was off Earth, – Mars – because there are no people there. A close second of course is the International Space Station – there’s no way out. And perhaps that is why islands of friendship wherever they are, are special and must be celebrated. It is certainly why I took the risk of writing this column on a precious lost commodity….
Friendship, unlike enmity, is difficult to cultivate and sustain because much is expected of a friend. Hand holding when the chips are down, encouragement when the morale is low, guidance when faced with dilemmas, criticism, and disagreement when there is incongruence between expectations (of anybody and everybody, but mainly society) and action, and putting up a stout defence in a battle that is not yours to defend. That is a true friend. But the truth is hard to come by in this era of Fake News!.
You will find some of these qualities in all your friends, as they will in you, but never all these qualities in one of your friends. That would be heaven and you won’t need a spouse.
A spouse is not called a spouse for nothing. He/she tries to be the embodiment of all that is needed in a friend, for a while at least. He / She puts her heart and soul into it expecting the same in return and there lies the rub (often with sandpaper).
We all know for a fact, that it always takes two hands to clap unless you are slapping your thigh or table, and over time, often one hand emerges stronger and more expectant than the other, leading to a discordant note in the clap. It gradually becomes the clap of thunder! The weaker hand must put in more effort if it must keep up the tempo…
With friends like you – who needs enemies? is an oft-repeated maxim to a friend who disagrees with you. But he must, else he is not a friend, is he? You must not suspect him or stifle his dissent as your government does you – for it is the only true mirror on your wall. It’s a talking walking mirror that you can carry along with you to the market, to a date, to war even; except into your family – that would be a prescription for disaster. But most prescriptions cannot be read until too late. You are lucky if you are a pharmacist! You will read it earlier than most!
If you have a friend that breeds on agreement with you, you are luckier! you automatically become a Superman, Spiderman and Batman rolled into one. And your mirror will reflect that to your comfort. But at some point, you will grow out of those super clothes – and you might find yourself naked – because you can’t find your own; you discarded them long ago. That was not a good idea. They are best kept folded in the cupboard to be taken out and ironed when needed…
As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. If you can fulfil that need. If you can’t, don’t or don’t want to, then well, it’s a seed, a seed of enmity, for what are friends for if they are not heroes in the night or knights in shining armour during the day? No matter the night is dark and deep, and the sun is bright and hot…when a friend is in need, you can’t be sitting, and smoking weed. You would be labelled a fair-weather friend; but who needs friends in fair weather?
Do friends last forever? The one you met in kindergarten and shared a bench through school and then went your separate ways. The one you met in college and careened around the college campus and beyond through night and day and when college came to an end, you said your goodbyes to without batting an eyelid? And those you met at work or through your other activities in society, what has become of them? And the ones you made after you got married or didn’t – it doesn’t matter – not to friendship! You made them your own and how! You would have made new friends at every milestone in your life, but the ones that last across milestones are the most precious. Precious yes, but the intensity diminishes as does the propensity to meet – except on social media – thank God for His small mercies; without them/it, we would be very very lonely in this world.
Although conversion is frowned upon, there is a FAQ… can an enemy become a friend to enable your ducks stand in a row? Well, I don’t have the answer to that, for I’m not a politician; but certainly, I’ve seen it happen time and again – and there are profound lessons to be learnt from this aspect of human interaction. Nothing is permanent – not friends, not enemies, not life itself. So, what’s the harm in calling a potato a carrot – both are root vegetables after all!
Finally, one aspect of friendship that is rarely discussed; it is quite rare in its occurrence because of its inherent dangers! the Platonic Friendship. It’s a mountain to climb, and there is no peak and descent – just the plateau. But the breeze is pleasant, and it can be the proverbial breath of fresh air in a polluted environment. But what you need to beware (be-aware) of is contributing to climate change….
In the end, making and keeping friends requires, as Neil Diamond says in his classic hit Sweet Caroline, ‘reaching out, touching me, touching you’ – are you up to it? I did my bit… If you are not, go ahead and rely on AI!
I hope I’ve made more friends than I have lost with this literary celebration of friendship, and I want to leave you emotional (not in splits or tears) with the lyrics of a James Taylor song (lyrics by Carole King) – “You’ve got a friend (in me)”
“When you're down and troubled And you need some lovin' care And nothin', nothin' is goin' right Close your eyes and think of me And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night You just call out my name And you know, wherever I am I'll come runnin' To see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call And I'll be there You've got a friend If the sky above you Grows dark and full of clouds And that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together And call my name out loud Soon you'll hear me knockin' at your door You just call out my name And you know, wherever I am I'll come runnin', runnin', yeah, yeah To see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call And I'll be there, yes, I will Now, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend When people can be so cold? They'll hurt you, yes, and desert you And take your soul if you let them Oh, but don't you let them You just call out my name And you know, wherever I am I'll come runnin', runnin', yeah, yeah To see you again”
This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.
Image by Here and now