JWR Articles: Commentary - On Friendship (Author: S. James Wegg) - August 31, 2001

On Friendship

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For David Hemsley (1940-2000), Canadian composer and writer
A different type of art

Friendship is an art. It is one of the most fulfilling and dangerous parts of living.

In today’s society, most friendships are superficial. As our potential for communication increases, its substance declines. The resultant shallow relationships mirror the prevalent epidemic of isolationism, which, like neglecting to understand or experience art, stems from the suppression of emotion and deep feelings. Art has been hidden away from free, public view—to preserve it. Our friendships are also cordoned off in our busy lives where no one just drops in.

Friendship and art contain the same essential elements: beauty, terror, joy, sorrow, and transcendence to the fringes of existence. Friendship begins from love of self whose happy by-product is the desire to share that feeling in an unselfish way with another. A masterwork, having captured a truth in an honest expression, has no real relevance until someone has gleaned its meaning, understood its intent. Friendship and art permit their participants to stand “naked” before each other in an open, non-judgmental manner. Truth can then be approached together. Each partner in a friendship can reveal the innermost thoughts that strengthen and define both. The creator and partaker of art have a similar but timeless need of the other for their relationship to succeed. (How many exquisite quilts lie unseen in the attics of those who buried more than their relatives?) These thoughts—artistic and “lifetistic”—are freely shared, without hesitation but have the potential to unleash a deeply unsettling experience or memory. Each side strives to show the other what cannot be seen.

Friendship has to be practised, nurtured, thought out collectively. It is hard work for the soul—its rewards far outweigh the effort required. Artists must push themselves to their technical and spiritual limits fully knowing that their results risk ridicule and may be considered failures.

A bad artistic “performance” caused by purposefully neglecting the art is a humanity crime just as a premeditated uncaring, selfish “performance” can injure a friendship. But if the friendship is damaged through honesty or truth, however stated or shown, then that must be acknowledged by both for the friendship to survive. Any hurt spawned from the scary depths of truth can, in time, be healed—to repress or omit a truth will scar the friendship forever. To succeed, both must support each other in thought, deed and presence.

The love in friendship is distinct from that of a lifemate. A lifemate is a partner to share all life has to offer: the celebration of humanity physically, mentally, emotionally—the unmatchable joy of producing children is, so often, the fulfillment of lifemate love.

Love in a friendship allows lifemate love to strengthen and deepen. This happens when a friendship becomes a sounding board for the uncertain mind. Ideas, thoughts, ambitions can be tested, improved, or rejected in a private forum which may prevent the lifemates from being mortally/emotionally wounded. Things said aloud, to a sympathetic ear often take on a different tone and meaning than in the silent workings of self.

Is any friendship totally honest? Is any human? Is any art pure? The degree of honesty achieved is the measure of the art in the friendship.

True friendship is as rare as the perfect work of art but, like it, the slim chance of experiencing its inherent joy is a gamble all should take.

The value of friendship is ourselves. JWR

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Author - S. James Wegg
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