Sunday, September 18, 2011


Of course, the myth is that a really good and loving and substantial friend will be a Best Friend Forever. But reality is quite a different matter. When I wrote my book on the subject of friendship and the importance of supportive interpersonal environments, FRIENDS: The Power and Potential of the Company You Keep, I used several examples of what seemed to certainly be everlasting friendships. None of them survived. This is not to say it's impossible to keep a close friend for a generation or longer, but in our increasingly changing world, filled with transient living and short term attention spans, it gets more difficult to hold onto the same values and interests that tend to glue us together.
I am still in touch with five friends from the 1970s in Miami, where I wrote that book. That seems amazing to me. Two of them are very close, even though we are separated by substantial geography. But emails, phone calls, and Skype video chats keep a sense of intimacy alive. Both are former lovers, but I'm not sure that has anything to do with the longevity of the relationships. Both were faithful correspondents during my entire twelve year term of incarceration. Since my release, several people have reached out to me in friendship and then fallen by the wayside--I suspect they thought I could do something for them that it turned out I couldn't. A couple of others seem like they are in it for the long haul. We may not be in frequent touch, but I have no doubt they would be there if I needed something they could provide, as I would be for them.
In prison, one learns to let go of friendship. There are kind, smart, supportive friends to be found and made behind those stone walls, but you never know when a friendship will suddenly end because one of the other of you will be suddenly transferred to another prison, or another yard at the same institution--and communication in that event is almost impossible. So you put yourself forward just a little bit, knowing it cannot possibly last. I've kept up with just one friend I made in prison, Keith, with whom I shared a cell for over two years. I joined he and his family for several holidays since my release.
Several of my friends going way back in the Human Potential Movement have become superstars and multi-millionaires. They're still cordial, but I wouldn't call them friends.
General speaking, I am proud and pleased at the quality of the friends I've attracted over the years, even the ones who are no longer part of my life. I think what constitutes success in the realm of friendship, isn't how long someone stays your best friend, but how organic the flow is from friendship to acquaintanceship and back again.
Time to go, I just got an email from one of my newest best friends, a lovely and successful movie actress in Europe. I'm not sure I'll ever tell the story of how we made contact, but that too is what gives some friendships their juice. As I look back, a lot of my friends came into my life in strange and wonderful ways. And the more strange and wonderful that beginning, the longer the friendship seems to have lasted. Maybe I'm onto something here. Are you open to a new friend arriving in a strange and wonderful way?

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