Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.
-- Edgar W. Howe
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
-- Terry Pratchett in various Diskworld novels
Originally, I wrote something while I was in Santa Barbara on vacation over Labor Day weekend, but in retrospect, it probably should not be posted. Especially since there are more important things to say. Specifically, it has to do with what I think friendship is, and how I've been deficient in actually carrying out these ideas in practice. And, I hope, the ways that I can be a better friend.
Friendship is that special connection that happens between two people occasionally, when they discover something that is inspiring, touching, descent, or even just likeable in each other. It doesn't require that you have anything in common with each other, except for that spark of connection that makes somebody special to you in your heart.
Being a friend is about enjoying the good times. It's about partying for the small triumphs, and celebrating the major successes. It's about spending time sitting around and just talking, and about playing games that everyone can get into.
Being a friend is about being strong when your friends are weak. It's about supporting people in a time of crisis, and holding them as long as it takes for them to cry themselves out. It's about knowing what's going on in each other's lives, and offering support (and, on occasion, tough love).
Being a friend is about exposing yourself to the world. It's about trusting people enough to expose your innermost thoughts to them, and being honest in every aspect of who you are. It's about saying the hard things (and asking the difficult questions), and still being friends the next morning.
But mostly, being a friend is about joy. It's about sharing that little piece of your soul, and about making people smile. And smiles -- like hugs -- are contagious; once they're given away, you usually get one right back. And, if you do it long enough, you might even do better than breaking even on the deal. That's when I know that I've found a true friend.
And here's where I've been deficient. I haven't been telling anybody about what's going on in my life. Admittedly, it's mostly research (I'm working on correcting that, BTW), and most of the people I know probably don't want to hear details, even though I probably could put it into terms that they can understand. (Richard Feynman once quipped that if you are unable to explain what you do in terms even a child can understand, then you don't understand it, either.) The other thing that bugs me is that I'm not always there when my friends really need me. Sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit, I can't even see when they do. So, if you do, please talk to me. I'd love to try to help if I can.
I also know that I don't smile all that often. Part of that is that whenever I try, it looks like a grimace (and, as a result, that I'm in an awful mood). That I can blame on my Dutch ancestry. Another part of it is that as a child, I learned not to smile an awful lot. And that makes me sad, in a way, because it's amazing how much a smile can do to open up people and to lift their spirits. The next time you talk to a friend on the phone, try smiling; the person on the other end of the line can hear it.
I know this doesn't work for all people. Heck, it usually doesn't work for me. But it's who I want to be. That's a powerful phrase -- want to be. It's one of the ones that changes the world all over again.
This web-site is an attempt to make myself more open. I used to shut whatever I thought about into the dark, back corners of my own mind, and not share them with the world. Quoth the raven, "Never more!"
And, for those of you who are curious, I had a wonderful time in SB. But I'll tell that story some other time.