I foolishly tackle a huge subject, attempting to extract a kernel of something here, before plunging into my list of many times put off tasks.
People who share our most deeply held beliefs, or passion for something we love, unless otherwise repellent, are easy to become friends with. There are drinking friends, and sports friends, and so forth, people we become friends with because of shared interests and good times spent together.
I have heard there are also business friends, people we meet who can help us advance our fortunes, and these are also cultivated as friends by most intelligent people. There are other intelligent people who lack even the basics of practical knowledge of advancing oneself in the world, they may be idealistic, but are ultimately a sad and perplexing lot.
The true friend, whose faults we can always overlook because of the great comfort we derive from their company, is extremely rare. Humans are fucked up, take a look at history, an unending scroll of rage and violence stained with blood and shit and scattered with torture devices. It is a miracle that we can find true friends, given the terrain, but it is also our greatest blessing to find a kindred soul.
Some Greek, possibly Socrates, maybe Aristotle Onassis (it was Plato, actually), divided people according to the preponderant part of their natures: Appetitive, Glory Seeking, Truth Seeking. All three parts comprise each soul, but individuals are driven by the dominant part of their nature. Just societies, this opinionated Greek opined, are ruled by that minority who seek truth, fairness and goodness above all else.
Our society is dominated by the ravenous appetite, and a love of out-sized glory, and the easiest thing to do with the meek ones who seek slippery abstractions like the common good is to mock and piss on them. You know what I’m saying. Bring Jesus back and pious billionaire Christians would instantly crucify him again, secretly, and destroy all traces of his visit.
And here we have the beginning of the rub that has been rubbing me for some time. How difficult it is to strive towards our higher nature without judging those who hold themselves to a more general standard. Nothing is more insufferable than a person who takes their virtue seriously.
I think back to a few I’ve considered friends, who revealed themselves, over time, to be driven to dispute, wrestling with their demons, given to outbursts of anger followed by lack of remorse or apology, incapable of refraining from hurtful behavior, while feeling virtuous. Like everyone else who has ever acted, feeling completely justified in their actions.
The retired judge who speaks convincingly of an abiding plague of our times: honor anemia. People’s contributions are slighted by lack of recognition, which is demoralizing, he points out. The few who are honored are often the least deserving. The man speaks the name of his own syndrome, an abiding and deep seated lack of respect, like Rodney Dangerfield but without the laughs. And behind that honor anemia lurks the virtue he believes in himself to be unassailable, no matter what else the facts of his life may have to say about the exact nature of those virtues, and a rage to defend these self-perceived virtues to the death. One may continue to be friends, as long as one accepts the playing field– certain buttons will set off explosions and woe unto the person who presses these buttons.
The former leftist, now a politically independent defender of Sarah Palin, who cannot restrain herself from sending political diatribes blaming liberals for terrorism, murder of police and every other plague of our divided, bleeding society. A woman of otherwise considerable insight, she has promised time and again to refrain from provocations on politics. Blacks (and many others) are upset because young black men, unarmed, are regularly killed by the police, in numbers disproportionate to their numbers in society? Her reply is quick: what about all the black on black violence? How come, she asks, guilty white liberals show so little concern over that?
You are insane, friends tell me, to have a correspondence with this woman. How many times has she promised not to send you political emails? How many times has she failed to honor that promise? What do you call someone who promises one thing and does the opposite? Let’s not call names here. It is true, though, I am insane to believe this person is a friend, no matter what other good things I may share with her.
“I can’t help it. I know it’s wrong. You are so gentle, trying so hard not to get angry. You are admirably walking on the high road. I applaud what you are doing, the great progress you have made. But I can’t help it, once in a while, I just… I know it’s not right, but I have to give you a bloody nose. It’s not you, it’s me, I know, and I pray you will forgive me. I have tried to get insight into my rage, my isolation, my fear, my hatred. The best I can make out is that I value a meek friend like you I can bloody and dependably be forgiven by. You restore my faith in mankind, a pretty unredeemed bunch. You understand, don’t you? Please….”