I swear, this isn’t one of those one and done type outings.
After my introduction to the kind and vocal members of Evangel, I had all the best intentions of becoming an active and regular voice on this site. I went home to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, did a little reading, a small amount of thinking, and came back to the District with a legal pad full of scratched out thoughts. But then cold weather and long conversations — one with Os Guinness that should eventually appear on this site — managed to eat away at all my good intentions.
Oh, and then I’m just slightly intimidated by the words and minds of my fellow writers.
Apologies aside, William Deresiewicz, over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, has thoroughly dissected the history and progression of friendship in a way that will leave you beyond sober, once you finish digesting it. Thanks to Steven for pointing me in its direction.
One would have to be completely devoid of reflective thought, if the creeping infection of our information saturated age hadn’t given you pause in the last few years. The post-Live Journal/Myspace/Xanga/Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter age has left universal communication vastly easier and cheaper than at any point in history. Most of us can see a few of the dangers inherent to this new world, but Deresiewicz moves past mere late night, cigar-stained complainings about the lack of privacy and the destruction of intimacy (not saying there’s anything wrong with those conversations), managing to root out the roots of what true friendship is meant to be, and how that concept has been perverted.
And here’s the thing, I’m not going to try and summarize this 12 page opus. First, Tuesday ran incredibly long, limited brain cells are dying, and my Wednesday started at 4:45. More importantly, it feels disrespectful to the careful articulation of Deresiewicz. You need to take the time to slowly work your way through his words, think about what’s said, and then how that applies to your life. I’m in need of detox just like anyone else. I spend far too much time idly clicking through Facebook, tweet banalities, and have an unsatisfied love for live music on Youtube (yesterday’s obsessions was Gillian Welch’s cover of The Weight).
A few snapshots though,
“To understand what they really look like, you would have to see a picture. And to understand who they really are, you would have to hear about the things they’ve done. Character, revealed through action: the two eternal elements of narrative. In order to know people, you have to listen to their stories.”
On inordinate displays of affection on the internet (I have to imagine that if Deresiewicz visited the gag-worthy STFU Marrieds, he might respond a little bit harsher than just),
“There’s something faintly obscene about performing that intimacy in front of everyone you know, as if its real purpose were to show what a deep person you are. Are we really so hungry for validation? So desperate to prove we have friends?”
“Now we’re just broadcasting our stream of consciousness, live from Central Park, to all 500 of our friends at once, hoping that someone, anyone, will confirm our existence by answering back. We haven’t just stopped talking to our friends as individuals, at such moments, we have stopped thinking of them as individuals. We have turned them into an indiscriminate mass, a kind of audience or faceless public. We address ourselves not to a circle, but to a cloud.
Now, go be truly counter-cultural and carefully read out these thoughts. Then tell me what are some ways that we can seek to cultivate true friendships in this complicated and emotionally stretched-thin age.