Last week winter bared its teeth.
I think of summer and how the veins in a leaf
come together and divide
come together and divide.
That’s how it is with us now
--The End of the Holidays, Mark Perlberg
Friends are important for many reasons. Mostly because friends are people who have entered your life, and there is no greater good on this earth, really, than another person. To encounter an image of eternity such as a friend is perhaps the greatest joy available to a human being.
Furthermore, when you encounter such glorious specimens of eternity: truly encounter them, not just stave off your own loneliness with stiff socializing over chips and salsa, you begin to realize how truly incredible it is that we live in a world populated with other human beings.
My world is so defined by me: my family, my city, my home, my daily routine. How miraculous it is that I can encounter another. That I can find these other forces invading my life, and not only influence and impact my life, but become a part of my life.
Friendship is a beautiful intertwining of fates: where you affect me, and I am touched by you, and we are never the same. Where I bare a part of my soul; where some vulnerability of thought and opinion, ideas, and intellects meet and two human beings stand before each other, with nothing screening their authenticity.
So how vitally important it is to find friends who draw out of us our most authentic selves. Because it is our friends who ask of us more than most others ask of us. Our friends demand that we be nothing other than ourselves, and how refreshing it is to have friends who demand nothing else but ourselves, but demand our very self. When friends ask us how we are, they are not following routine courtesy, but are instead inviting a conversation to open up.
Friends can remind us of who we are, when circumstances and environments have sent our identity underground. They remind us of who we are for them, and who, therefore, we can be for the wider world. They remind us of our beauties and our virtues when we have all but forgotten them.
Sometimes, several days of dwelling alongside of friends is a healing force. Living is an activity that is best shared with others, and just living alongside of dear friends is a beautiful, refreshing retreat. To watch their faces as they speak, to see their moods written across their face, to remember how they smile and laugh, and to just feel their presence and their soul in close proximity, is such a joy. And other times, all you get is just a meal or a quick cup of coffee or just a brief hug and a walk together. But even that is such a blessing: to share a brief moment with a friend who is always accompanying you on your journey.
And as I walked away from dinner, through the beautiful cold of Chicago's night, I was warmed by the thought of how very sweet and easy these reunions had been. Although the departures have all the sting of unnatural separation, they are softened by the knowledge that they are only temporary and temporal. An eternity of love exists between two souls that no earthly separation can ever touch.
On this feast of Gregory and Basil, I find myself so thankful for the friends I am surrounded by as I ring in this new year, and the friends that are far away. Annually, today, I find myself in awe of what friendship is: that two people can love each other so dearly, so selflessly, and with such great goodness, that two friends can turn each other into saints.