Monday, October 17, 2016

What is a Friend?

This political environment has given rise to the question of who is my friend.

I have reached a boiling point and no longer want to tolerate support for the neo-fascist running for president on an elitist ticket. So I have made the decision to remove those people who support him from my Facebook friends list.

There have been some interesting reactions to this decision. I didn't expect much support for this choice in general, so I was surprised at how much I actually did get. But not surprisingly, I also saw a fair amount of resistance. I'm not the type of person who does things based on what most people think. I've marched to the sound of a different drummer my whole life, and if people get me, that's fine; but it's not a huge concern for me if they don't.  I'm not writing this to convince anyone else that I'm right or to persuade anyone to think or do like me, I'm only going to make an attempt to be understood, for what it's worth.

Some people have told me they are also disturbed by some of their friends showing support for Trump or his ilk through Facebook posts, but are proud of the fact that they continue to have friends from all walks of life. It creates in internal conflict for some of them, and for others it seems that they feel it is all part of the suffering of life to have people that are close to you cause you grief. I respect that that works for them, but it doesn't for me.

I don't put any importance in the virtues of collecting random acquaintances. I don't think that more is better or that it is my duty to have a representative of every different type of thinking in my circle of friends. I consider a friendship with me a sacred thing and I don't let just anyone stay in this group. I suspect that this thinking that it is virtuous to accumulate as much and as many as possible is a symptom of our culture of greed and materialism. And I also think some sort of spiritualism plays into it. Perhaps some people believe that it is their cosmic duty to see and embrace the good in everyone. While, I don't disagree with that, I don't think it's the same thing as allowing them in. I don't believe that we need to give people of all walks of life access to our heart and soul to show us how many different facets the world has. I can see many different types of people without bringing them close to my bosom. I believe that my most important resource is my own spirit and my own happiness. If anyone in my life regularly makes me distressed, the thing to do is to remove myself from that situation.

Some have gone as far as to insult me and call me names, saying that I'm weak or stupid because I can't be friends with people who think differently than I do. To that I answer that everyone in the world thinks differently than I do.  It's a silly thing to even suggest that I'm only looking to be friends with people who think like I do.  That's an impossibility. What I'm doing is removing people from my life who I no longer respect or like because of the parts of themselves I had not seen until now.

I got a kick out of it when a stranger to me inserted himself by commenting on a post of mine. He derided me for not being friends with people who thought differently than me, and concluded his post by labeling me a 'moron.'  It struck me as terribly hypocritical. If he really believed what he was chastising me for, he wouldn't have dismissed me for the way I thought. But his actions spoke louder than his words and perfectly illustrated that it is something we all do. It is an act of self-love and self-respect to keep offenders at bay.

I think, too, that people tend to take the 'friend/unfriend' thing a little too seriously. I don't think that including someone on a friend list on Facebook is the be-all and end-all. I could conceivably remove someone from my friends list and remain connected to them in real life. If, for example, someone in my family ended up on the chopping block, I could still see them at family functions and be civilized, but I don't need to continue with the intimacy that Facebook provides. I don't want to see every thought they share if I have lost that edge of respect and admiration for them. Nor do I want them to see and potentially comment on the things that I post.

I also am unconventional in my ability to let go and move on. I have done a lot of work on myself to remain free of the burden of being attached to earthly material things. The more I let go of, the freer I am. I can literally sense my spirit by being in touch with how much or how little I am attached to things. It is an inversely proportional relationship, meaning the more I let go, the more I am in my spirit. So it is not a difficult decision for me to remove material things, especially those things that bring me distress.

Others have followed my lead and given me credit for the nudge that they needed to remove offenders from their lists as well. They report feeling lighter and freer after doing so.  Yes.  That is the feeling of their spirit being set free. And that is exactly how I see it is my place to influence people: By living my truth and allowing others to see it, they are free to choose for themselves what they believe to be right for them.

I have had well-meaning friends suggest that instead of walking away, I discuss things with the offender in question.  I spent a month doing that in this election, and basically most of my life doing that in general, and it didn't ever feel spiritually awakened to me. In fact, it usually felt quite tight and restricted. I have learned by experience that it is not my place to convince other people. It becomes a conflict and increases my level of distress and unease, and I suspect, does the same for the other person. I don't want to be a spreader of pain and tightness. I feel that it is more keeping with my beliefs to let other people have their beliefs. If someone is swayed by seeing my actions in the world, then that's ideal, but I'm not looking to influence anyone directly. I will continue to live my loving, spiritually based life, unattached to material and reactions. I live in peace.

At the end of my life, I don't imagine many of my friends being there, but my spirit and my mind will be all I have left. I must make sure that throughout my whole life, I've been aware of the needs and desires of these things and put them as my first and last priority.  I need to proactively ensure the safety of the rare things that really will be there my whole life.

I'm not living in denial. I know that all types of people are out there and I know that many people have entirely different views and agendas. I appreciate that the world is a vastly varied place. But living in peace means that I draw a line around myself and I am allowed to choose who comes on my side of that line and gets close to me. We are all allowed to draw our boundaries and uphold them.

My line has a lot to do with treating everyone with equal deserved respect. When I see someone not doing that, I feel it is important that they remain on the outside of my line.  I don't do it in a disrespectful way, but I simply no longer invite them in. I invite them to live their lives outside of my line.

Several years ago I was given a beautiful metaphor by one of my Nia students when I unwittingly overstepped my boundaries and offended her. It was a great learning experience for me as she described the feeling that I had 'rearranged her gem garden' and I knew exactly what she meant as soon as she said it. Ever since then I've been aware of everyone's gem garden as well as my own. I kept in mind that the only garden that I'm allowed to rearrange is my own. And that only I was allowed to do it. Other gem gardens are under the exclusive control of their owners. So while I might ask questions, seeking to understand other people, I don't think it is my place to change anyone else's world view.  I also don't feel it is very enlightened to hurl insults at people for having different beliefs. I do catch myself sometimes thinking those things and even sometimes actually saying them, but that's my flaw and I'm working on it.

A friend is a temporal thing. It is a privilege, not a right. I know that some people believe that friendship is forever, but I don't. I think it is earned, constantly. If it were just a life-long given that someone who was once your friend is always your friend, then it seems to me to lose a great deal of potency. What makes friendship so incredibly important is that it is extremely precious and is easily broken; so that if it does last for years and years it is because it has remained a positive nurturing relationship all that time. Friendship is not something I set and forget. One of the undeniable truths about life is that it is always changing. I don't accept that because something was true last year that it's true today. Every day I wake up to a new world. My life is lived in immediate awareness. Each day is a new discovery. Which means that I can and do re-evaluate friendships at any time.

A friend is someone who inspires me. Someone who I feel good being with. Someone who brings out the best in me. Someone who teaches me things without insulting me.  A friend shares things with me that lift me up. It brings me pleasure when I can do the same for them. A friend shares a similar moral compass as me. We don't have to agree on every little thing, but we should agree on the big things.

Some people will ask, "What about unconditional love? Don't you believe in that?" My answer is yes, I do. But I don't think love and friendship are the same thing. I think it's in our best interest to give out as much love as we can possibly manage. And I do have love for people that do bad things. I recognize my impulse to retract love as my own weakness. I believe that there is good in everyone, that we're all doing our best and we're all confused and scared. And I can believe that while being someone's friend, or while not being their friend. A friend to me is different in that a friend has access to my heart and soul. It is a relationship of mutual trust and vulnerability. I promise that my best intention is to love you. I intend to love everyone, unconditionally. But I come first to me, and if someone has the potential to rearrange my gem garden, I have no problems with lovingly securing them on the other side of the gate.


No comments: