As a verb, to muse is to consider something thoughtfully. As a noun, a muse is a person who is a source of artistic inspiration. What follows is a thoughtful consideration from an inspiring source.
| October 29, 2015
Early in August, I read a very brief article within the Monday Bits column that appears in the Business section of The New York Times. It focused on the findings of a recent study released by the Pew Research Center. (A highly respected foundation, but unfortunate name that, don’t you agree?) Anyway, they had discovered what even a social-media iconoclast such as me already knows: “ Young people not only use the Internet to maintain friendships made at school or at work but also to forge new ones with peers they meet while browsing social networks…or playing games.”
Not exactly a revelation — unless you’re from Mars, I suppose. I know that the overwhelming adult objection to this so-called phenomenon concerns the seemingly increasing presence of predators who are trolling the Internet for vulnerable youngsters. And personally, as a great uncle who is shortly expecting his eighth little recipient of birthday and Christmas checks, I would never minimize this very real danger. But for today, for the purposes of this discussion, that is not the issue I want to raise.
No, I’m just concerned that simple human contact is being undermined and supplanted – in general, of course, but also, in this case, as an integral part of the maturation and assimilation process of becoming a fully formed human being and member of our world society. By that I don’t mean a faceless, in-lock-step automaton without an independent or creative thought in their head or act in their body. But a thinking, feeling person who connects with other members of our civilization, who cultivates a concern for others’ needs and emotions, who works at being the best they can be and brings out the best in others as well, because in the end that’s the only way (get ready for it: platitude alert!) we’re all going to survive this veil of tears and leave something of value behind for the future.
Before I go too far in the direction of waxing esoteric, let me get back on point and say that, for me, there has been nothing more valuable or fulfilling than the friendships I have formed over the years and enjoy to this day. And considering my often-abrasive and judgmental personality (who me?!), I think I still have quite a few of them. A number of them since childhood. And a surprising number that span various multiples of decades because I met them in college, or through numerous positions in a long and checkered work life, or because they are among those I simply met along the road that’s been my life and wanted to continue to share the ride with them. And unfortunately, there are some whom I know I would still call “friend” if only they could have stuck around and just grown old with me.
But as I said, I liked them. And seemingly, they liked me. (I best move along here, for fear of revealing my inner Sally Field.) We met in person, face-to-face. We didn’t “like” or “friend” each other in the ether or the Internet or outer space.
We’ve shared successes and disappointments, loves and losses, hope and dreams for the future, cares and frustrations of everyday life. Sought out sage advice and turned a blind eye to shortcomings. And we continue to know and see (many not as often as we might like) and communicate (not many people actually like talking on the phone anymore, but I do) with each other.
You might compare being a friend to doing a never-ending mating dance or performing a sacred ritual again and again or, more simply, like riding a bike. Once you’ve got it down, you’re golden. And while it may take effort in order for a friendship to remain top-of-mind and in good working order over the long haul, believe me when I say it’s all worth it. For me, friend will always be one of my favorite nouns.
There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
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