A “friend” indeed!

The most universal and encompassing of all relationships is ‘friendship’. Given the innate urge to explore the dimensions of different words and ideas, I cannot but dissect the word ‘friend’. In a virtual world where people have an ever-expanding friends-list, it is imperative to reconsider the meaning of a ‘friend’ in the present context.

I could have written about this on friendship day, but I chose not to question the foundations of friendship lest the reader accuse me of souring his/her ‘friendships’. This is an opportune time to have an objective view of things (subject though it is, to my prejudices).

So, who is a ‘friend’? Is it necessary to have friend(s)? Why would you need a friend? Some questions, many answers. The intent, however, is to offer (in the broadest sense of the term) reasonable, if not consensual, answers. Being a member of the society one can’t help but know the people one interacts with. It’s another matter if you’re not ‘normal’ (or, at least, not in the ‘normal’ circumstances – consider being stranded on an island a la Robinson Crusoe) – if you cut off all interaction with the external world (which is quite an improbability). Interaction, however, doesn’t necessarily translate into anything more than an acquaintance with the people you interact with. The greater the interaction, the greater is the chance of a friendship with the person. This is the usual norm. So, is it that a friend is someone you talk to, go to movies with, share your things with, and celebrate friendship day with? Partially yes, but there is more to it than just that. The most generic definition of a ‘friend’ that I can conceive of is: A friend is someone with whom you can ‘just be’. The degree of friendship is a function of the degree to which you can ‘be’ in your interactions with your friend. I will explain.

In society, we often put up facades. Often “friendship” is one of these facades and we may not even know that. We might really, genuinely, sincerely believe in the truth of our “friendships”. That you talk to and interact with another individual might make you believe he/she is a friend. That there is one on your

friends-list might make you believe the same thing. The truth, however, is that you can’t ‘just be’ with everyone of these “friends”. That is, you can’t be who you are in the real and comprehensive sense of the term. There are, then, degrees of friendship for people who don’t always ‘be’. The degree of friendship depends on the extent to which you can ‘be’ in your interactions with others. There are “friends” you only talk to occasionally. There are those you talk to very often. The degree of friendship, however, is not a function of the frequency of such interactions (forgive me for this compulsive “scientific” expression of a simple idea). It is rather a function of the intensity of such interactions estimable in terms of the degree to which you can ‘just be’. This classification of friendship in terms of the degree to which you can ‘be’ in your interactions with others might appear a bit strange upon first encounter. But think about it. Do you not feel more comfortable in the company of some friends compared to others? Do you not connect better with some people than many others? Do you not share your secrets with only a few “best friends”? I do and if I’m not wrong in generalizing this, I think even you do.

The ‘just be’ definition and theory of friendship I have just proposed is in no way binding upon any individual, whatsoever, and being a theory in the dynamic human realm, this theory cannot claim universal applicability even though the idea is to propose as general a theory as possible (subject, of course, to the limitations of my own human experience) – one that would encapsulate the essence of any friendship. You might wonder if this “weird” (that is, if you consider it weird, as “they” often consider my musings and me) article makes any sense and if this writer knows what he is talking about. Rest assured, I don’t. I’m only beginning to understand what I’m talking about. It’s a ‘sudden’ insight that took a long time to materialize in this write-up. It is one of those ideas that change your perception of the world in some way or the other, big or small. In retrospect, I can trace the genesis of this idea to a number of factors – my own personal experience, Wilde’s “most people are other people” idea, and Dr. Phookun’s (my professor in college) ‘just be’ idea. There might be other subtle influences that shaped my thinking but which, owing to the limits of my perception, I can’t recognize as I write this. An acknowledgement is due to these influences.

If you’re wondering what the ‘just be’ idea is, it is this: all of us are trying to be “someone”, trying to reach the pinnacle of achievement, trying to find our own place in the world. We have been told and we are often told how the ‘great ones’ achieved greatness and how there are a few men and women who leave a lasting impression and impact on the world. The idea of such “inspirational” narration of their march to greatness often is to inspire us to be “someone”. However, to paraphrase what someone once said, we are so busy trying to be someone that we forget we are someone. The ‘just be’ idea is to be who you are and explore your individuality instead of trying to be what “they” (this includes your “friends”) think you are. And if you (for some reason incomprehensible to me) think this article makes no sense, and if upon deeper reflection you find it does make some sense, rest assured I have ‘just been’. And because I’ve ‘just been’ you can well assess the degree of our “friendship” in our respective capacity as the reader and the writer.

Ravi Kunjwal

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