Having read Darwin’s (not the pre-eminent Charles’) post on ‘friendship’ got me thinking about friends and friendships and that memory part of the mind (the hippocampus combining with the cerebral cortex) hurtled back in time to help me consider how I saw what my perspective was on what she was on about. So, in order to get this right, I checked on the definition of ‘friend’ and found it was ‘somebody who has a close personal relationship of mutual affection and trust with another’, and ‘friendship’ to be ‘a relationship between two or more people who are friends’ or ‘the mutual feelings of trust and affection and the behavior that typify relationships between friends’.

For sure there would have to be a personal relationship, with trust and affection between me and whoever it is that I consider to be a ‘friend’ – the closer the relationship, the dearer the friendship I suppose. And the degree of trust usually grows along with the relationship – at least that’s how it has been for me.  And then of course there are degrees of friendship – casual friends, close friends that one meets or contacts on a fairly regular basis, friends from the past who one has hardly any contact with any more, except perhaps for the odd mail or wishes on particular occasions, but who, if met again would be just as close as before the parting. There are also people I consider ‘friends’, even though we have never even met. RD springs to mind, as we established contact due to the blogging and some e-mails followed. The vibe was right, there were things we had in common and he seemed like a pretty decent bloke – and then when he informed me that he was due to visit, we made plans to meet and I looked forward to it. The meeting itself, albeit brief, as I had to leave Colombo the day after and would return only a day or two before he left, was pleasant enough and served to reinforce my view that he could well be considered a friend. The fact that we had mutual friends only confirmed my view (RD only knows what RD thinks about that!).

Friendships, in my life, also cross all sorts of boundaries and spectrums as I have very strong relationships with some of the children of my friends. I know some children from the time they were infants and who are now in their teens that I have strong bonds with and I find it very easy to relate to them on their terms without the hypocrisy or condescension that many adults reserve for ‘children’. The trust and affection are mutually felt and if ever there is a need to be assertive, it is never misunderstood because of the type of relationship that has developed. Then there are domestic or other ‘aids’ who, in the time we have been together, have formed relationships that transcend the ‘employer / employee’ thing. There is, of course, a mutual respect and understanding of certain ‘norms’ or expectations, but that is part of the matrix.

‘Casual’ friendships are usually (for me) with people I have met on more than a few occasions, usually with mutual friends, who I can have enjoyable times with but with who I may not have much in common with, which usually stalls the development of the relationship. But they would remain ‘friends’ nevertheless, for if we were to meet in a strange place by coincidence, a certain degree of affection and trust would be in place from previous experiences and the company would probably be enjoyed.

What I have observed about ‘friendship’ is that with all the trust and affection that may be established, relationships often sour and disintegrate and so-called ‘close’ friends fall out and ill-will replaces the positive feelings. Many different reasons could be the cause – unfulfilled expectations, misunderstandings that egos would not allow to be resolved, betrayed trust or what is perceived as such, jealousy and many more. I have friends with who I can trash out differences in views, where very often emotions run high and where we sometimes get to being pretty vociferous and even getting to the point of being personal and hurtful, but with who the understanding and affection is so firmly entrenched, that we can agree to disagree and go on from there. I feel that one must have a very good understanding of the character with whom a close relationship evolves in order to see differences of view in perspective. Expectations are often the cause for disappointment, which in turn usually lead to a feeling of being let down, and if there is no ‘objective’ view, this is often the first signs of the disintegration of the relationship. ‘Right Understanding’ is the key.

Java, however has a slightly different take on this whole ‘friendship’ thing:

Shhheeet maan, my bes frens be dose dogs dere – uncondishunal love, we dig da sheeet out of each odder’s company, we don say hurtful sheet, dey be faitful to de end, dey don expec too mukin fuch and best of all dey let yo do yo thang witout no bull shheet to hang you up, but what be mos important – mutual love and understandin. Know any humans like dat?

And so it goes…