Friendship

I am spending a few days with a group of my best buddies. We call our
gang the ‘Old Souls’. This started about 7 years ago when nine of us
from all over the USA gathered at Vince’s farm for a long weekend,
generally to talk about whatever was on our minds to and specifically
to discuss our experiences and reflections as we entered mid-life.
We’ve been gathering three times a year at various locations ever
since. Some of the faces have changed over the years. Gary went to
India to experience and express himself spiritually: he has found Grace
and peace and is living the life of a genuinely holy man. Tom, the
youngest member, is following another path and has lost any real
connection with us. And a few new men have joined us in the last few
meetings.

These
‘Old Souls’ are my friends and, more importantly, they are teaching me
friendship. I know that may sound strange. We mostly think of
friendship as a fact of relationship or as a state of affairs: we
rarely consider it something we ‘learn’ or perhaps a competency we can
master. I am discovering that friendship isn’t about the time we spend
together (which I am sure is not a surprise to anyone who has ever
reconnected with an old friend and picked up exactly where you left off
the last time you saw each other). It is for me more of a ‘space’, an
opening for something extraordinary to appear. When I am with my
friends and I am ‘being’ a friend, I experience a kind of
happiness—even joy—that is not present in most relationships. I feel
safe and ‘known’ and appreciated in a way that is very special and
unique. I experience love in a very empowering way.

Friendship,
of course, can take many forms. I think the nature of friendship
changes over time, not just with particular friends, but in general. I
am much more ‘tuned in’ now to my friendships—not only with these men,
but also with many others of both genders—as being at the center of the
commitments I have in the world. These are commitments to trusting, to
giving, to caring, to being there for others. In a way, true friendship
brings out the best in us—the human capacity to be open and vulnerable
to others, to let go of pretense, to recognize ourselves in the best
(and worst) of others, and also to learn compassion for them and
ourselves.

I have often said that relationship is the foundation
for everything. Without powerful and committed relationships, we would
not have communication, coordination would be mechanical, and our lives
and futures would be circumstantial at best. Relationships are the
possibility for innovation, learning, synergy and power beyond what is
available to us as individuals. Relationship is the most basic
phenomenon of human consciousness.

We are our relationships.

And
of all of our relationships, friends are those for whom we have the
most affinity, with whom we generally want to spend time with. Friends
often remember who we are even when we forget. This does not mean that
friendship cannot also have a dark side. Sometimes friendships can
become conspiracies when we agree to tolerate each other’s negative
attributes, rather than empower each other to do something about them.
In the case of my ‘soul brothers’, we are fortunate in that we are
committed to the best in each other and are not reluctant to ‘talk
straight’ when someone gets off track.

I am grateful for all of
my friends, both in this group and in the rest of my life. I think my
gratitude and appreciation of them grows with each passing year. At the
end of the day, I believe friends are one of the aspects of this
existence that makes life worth living.

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