Falling in Friendship

credit: simon maage, gross gasteiger, olia danilevich,helena lopez

“Happy International Day of Friendship……”…..shares the radio presenter…

News to me, but the ‘International Day of Friendship is observed on July 30… a day to mark the significant contribution of friendship to our lives. Not that we should need a ‘marked’ day to recognise or embrace the value of this unique form of social relationship but the radio byte hooked my attention during a long drive…distracting me to resurface several names and faces of close bonds, past and present, migrating on to how and why friendships have evolved and dissolved in my own world, whilst others have stood the test of time; and what they reveal…

Adopting my preferred phenomenological perspective, Dreher (2009) citing Alfred Schutz, suggests friendship is a notion or idea, and even an imagined construct, which transcends the world of everyday life of individuals. That it is a special form of “encounter with fellow human beings” that creates a specific bond between people (Schutz 1962, p. 353f.)  

In the car I thought of my special ‘friend’ Amanda- our ongoing relation has already achieved ‘lifetime status’, sprung forth from us locking on to each other’s spirit at the tender age of 4 years. A precious friendship that has weathered some short periods of communications inactivity and absence due to various life states or stages, but whose emotional longevity means we are truly weaved into the other’s life fabric and story – enriched with an ingrained sense of knowing each other’s essence or ‘core of being’. Our friendship is enacted in many ways: mutual support, care, celebration, and challenge. And in spite of natural evolving, and maturing, as beings over the course of our lives to date, neither of us, I suspect, has lost the sense of the essence of each other in those early days of connecting. We still find the 4 year old, the 14 year old and so on in each other. And I wonder at the pureness of that knowing, even as children, when you meet someone new, and the instinctive feeling in your gut of the uniqueness of the deep bond that is about to form.

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

I also called to mind the ‘friends’ who have strongly featured in sections of my life, drifting out of contact, through geography or circumstance, yet through their influence and impact and the trail of precious memories, their essence has left a welcome imprint. 

I thought about the continuing friendships that have grown out of the briefest of moments of togetherness – like Jocelyn and Gregory. One single day of togetherness that blossomed into a double decade of geographically dispersed care and support. I am again reminded of that instinctive knowingness that comes with ‘friendship at first sight’.

And then there are those who I have met at work or through study, who have leapt over the boundaries into my personal world, and are now inextricably woven into my life tapestry. 

To each of us, ‘my friend and I ‘- we are elements of the world of everyday life in which we communicate with each other. ‘Friends’ can share attributes and offer similar opportunities for caring, sharing, and communication: that is, certain qualities must be shared in order to form the required bonds, like trust and respect, but there are also unique aspects to all friendships which cannot be easily expressed (Dreher, 2009). We are fellow sufferers, colleagues, comrades, etc. (Schutz 1989, p. 292), and once the friendship is established based on an everyday transcendent idea, the two individual persons in their specific we-relationship function as symbols for this particular, unique idea of a friend” (Dreher, 2009) . 

And it made me think – I should not have pondered so much on the commonality of what friendship has gifted my life, in some form of a phenomenological quest for the ‘essence of genuine friendship’, but rather, what I bring/have brought to the table. Friendship is indeed a commonly used term, and possibly one which can lead to a form of misuse or ab-use. We can often hear or maybe experience the disappointment of the words .. “I thought that she/he was my friend”… And so my drive of ‘wonder’ took its final turn into a very specific set of questions: What is the meaning and value, and even duties of ‘True Friendship’…, and do I live up to them?…

A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you. – John O’ Donohue

True friendship is perhaps a rarer gift than we may fully appreciate ‘in the moment’. it really asks that we at least always try to  show up with absolute integrity of intention(O’ Donohue, 2011).

I can honestly say I have been blessed and feel in complete awe of the ‘wonder of it all’. That we may orient ourselves so strongly to specific lives, that we may be met so serendipitously by an ‘other’ in a space of openness, trust and vulnerability…

that ‘others’ choose to commit to walk some steps or a whole life with us.

To all my friends, past and present: thank you for ‘falling into friendship with me’ and enriching the journey.

References

Dreher, J. (2009) ‘Phenomenology of Friendship: Construction and Constitution of an Existential Social Relationship’, Human Studies, December 2009, Vol. 32, No. 4.

O’ Donohue, J. (2011) ‘Anam Cara’, Bantam Books: London.

Schutz, A. (1945/1962) ‘On multiple realities’. In M. Natanson (Ed.), Collected papers, vol. I. The problem of social reality (pp. 207-259). Den Haag: Nijhoff. 

Schutz, A. (1989). Appendix: ‘The notebooks’. In A. Schutz & T. Luckmann (Eds.), The structures of the life-world (Vol. 2, pp. 159-324). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 


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