Futility and Friendship
Psychologists often say that a kid only needs one friend. Growing up, I was that kid.
I moved a lot — eight times before the fourth grade. Often, I was alone at recess. I got really good at the monkey bars; I hid in the slides; I went “treasure hunting.” Once, I even discovered a dinosaur tooth and I wanted to tell someone so badly. But I had no one, so I told my teacher and she said, “That’s a baby tooth! Throw it out.” I didn’t, because baby dinosaurs are cool, too.
People were friendly. But, each year, I knew we were moving again so I became less and less willing to open up — to be vulnerable. And I always justified not having friends; I said it was unnecessary. Essentially, I thought, friends are just two people who hang out with each other; after our 30-minute recess, it’s over; there’s no more interaction.
But we know friendship isn’t just about physical interaction. In fact, we spend most of our friendships thinking about each other, from elsewhere. But this, from a purely physical standpoint, is a futile act. Our minds cannot send waves or dust particles to another person. They cannot remotely make someone feel better or help them with an obstacle. No matter how hard you think, telekinesis is not possible.
Despite my grim attitude toward friendship, I was lucky. Each year, one person always insisted on being my friend.
In kindergarten, I spent a lot of my time hiding in the jungle gym. One day in October, a chubby boy name Kevin labored up the ladder and sat next to me. He said, “Your socks are too high,” and he proceeded to fold them down, right above my ankles, perfectly in-fashion.
These friends were always humble people. I think it’s because, for our friendship to start, they had to care about me before I cared about them.
When I eventually accepted their friendship, I found that I was constantly thinking about them — worrying about them, cheering for them, hoping for them. I think, subconsciously, I was grateful. They made me happy.
But I still didn’t understand how a futile act, like thinking, could possibly mean anything for people who are not interacting. In fact, it was still a mystery until recently, when all my friends and family started living further and further away — my parents in Vietnam, my girlfriend in Ghana, my friends all over the world.
Only then did I realize that the futility of thinking about another person — and our intense desire to do so — is exactly what friendship is about. It shows our willingness to be devoted, committed and vulnerable for another person, simply because it is the best we can do, even if the best yields nothing. It’s like pushing a 10-ton stone: We can’t move it, but that’s not the point.
Then, when we reconnect, that thinking turns into loving and caring and wonderful feelings that can only come from a relationship that we’ve thought about. I’m not saying that thinking is sowing for the future; when we think, we do it for the present — it is not premeditated or methodical. I am, however, saying that the notion of friendship is beautiful.
First, it requires two people to humble themselves and think about each other — even though it changes nothing at the moment.
Secondly, friendship arguably has no survival value, as C.S. Lewis said. “Rather, it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
for more on unwelcomeness, visit the Rec Writers Club
August 29, 2010