This week I write to my esteemed friends and followers, my readers. A very special thanks goes out to the two men who were kind enough to shout at me downtown late Saturday night. I can only assume that you were calling good things and that you, too, are avid fans … your enthusiasm is inspiring. Not.
But in all seriousness, let us take this opportunity (conveniently gifted to us by way of this column’s cheesy introduction) to instigate a discussion on the topic of friendship. I’ll try my best to keep the ranting to a minimum.
Let us ask ourselves why friendship is, by and large, not taken very seriously by the vast majority of young people (and maybe old people, but I’ll speak for my own generation, thanks).
We spend our days hiding behind computer and phone screens messaging one another about today’s ‘group-think’ fad, or worse the weather; both the teen talk and small talk, being equally futile. Sure, we occasionally see our peers bonding over a beer, stroll to class, or a group retreat. But, our overall perception of bonding seems to be dysfunctional. We need not seek the kind of loyalty friendship should demand, the kind of loyalty that provokes bold-constructive honesty and courage to stand by the accused.
We hardly ever partner ourselves with complimentary figures on the off chance that we might actually change each other for the better. And, God forbid, we ever break the superficial seal of cookie cutter relationships to delve knee deep in the ghastly crap that is inevitably boiling at the core of all of our lives.
For those of you who do, cool your jets, exceptions exist. But, reflect on how many times your authentic friendship has been perversely labeled as a ‘bro-mance,’ ‘girl-crush,’ or sexual relationship. Be real, you’ve heard it.
I, for one, have always sort of wanted that really cool group of unconditionally-loving friends like those on the appropriately named show “FRIENDS,” or “How I Met Your Mother,” or perhaps the most interesting friend group of them all: Jesus and his apostles. Don’t scoff; I know you’ve wondered what kind of inside jokes that crowd busted over in their day. It’s only natural.
This Holy group of blokes were just as normal as the rest of us (minus their friendship with The Man/God-savior). That’s right, they were just as dysfunctional as the rest of us. Peter was a deep thinking jabber who stuck his foot in his mouth more than a few times; John, a hot-headed, domineering, loyal man was nicknamed one of two ‘sons of thunder’ by Jesus himself. And, of course, let us not forget Judas Iscariot- a backstabbing sensualist. It seems to me that the pack Jesus ran with was certifiably normal, how crazy is that? But Jesus loved them anyway. In fact, Peter and John were two of the three men closest to him, but they couldn’t have been more different than the Messiah. Why is that?
I suspect that the Enneagram played a hand in it all. The Chaldean crest (the enneagram) was spread across the Catholic world by a 19th century king who learned of it in the depths of a 2500 B.C. monastery and the regime has run rampant ever since.
A retreat favorite, the enneagram holds nine numbers of which represent what theorists say is an individual’s motivations or approach to life. This personality test-ish diagram has been marveled over by mathematicians, philosophers and other academics for years. As a mentor recently warned me ‘its purpose is to peer inside the mind of another and understand what they see, not to identify your own shortcomings and restrict yourself.’ And, this I believe is similar to Jesus’ ability to love the sinners, best friends and disciples that were so different from himself. He could see into their hearts and minds, not using an enneagram of course, but divine talent. Because Jesus knew his beloved friends and cared to learn about what motivated them, he was able to love people not of his own blood unconditionally.
Though I don’t suggest that the enneagram is any kind of solution to the illusion we hold that all 2,563 of our ‘friends’ on Facebook are actually our friends, perhaps it will help us to love our real ones. Or, at least, seek out some real ones and value friendship a bit more. At the very least we should keep an eye on the company we keep so that we don’t spend life with one eye on the door. Or rather, both on the screen.