Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The loneliness of friendship

I've been thinking a lot lately about friendship.  It may have something to do with the convergence of things that have happened this summer:  my son and daughter's move to "the big city," the death of my father-in-law, time spent camping with my youngest daughter and her soon-to-leave-for-college life.  Friendship is an elusive reality.  We all want friends.  We all need friends.  But, I'm not sure I've found very many--you know, the kind of friend that loves you unconditionally.  Of course, we find friends in expected places (family, work, school), but even then I've come to realize that my friends over the years have been few and far between.

Not counting my immediate family, I've had three or four friends.  In high school, my best friend, Rick, was my constant companion.  Wherever he went, I went and vice versa.  We worked at the same place (Orange Julius at the Battlefield Mall), we enjoyed the same movies (Monty Python's "Quest" and Mel Brooks "Blazing Saddles" nearly made us pee in our pants for laughter), and went to the prom together (with appropriate dates, of course).  Our 40 year high school reunion is coming up.  I haven't attended a single one.  But, if I were to attend this one, it would only be because Rick was going.  And, I'm sure we'd pick up the conversation were we left it over 10 years ago.

I made a couple of friends in college--guys that I haven't kept up with but I know that if we were to talk, it would feel like time travel.  Jimmy, "Bib", and Tim--even though the four of us didn't hang out together--these three guys made college feel like home.  But, again, I've only seen them every once in a while, when they're drawn back to Bolivar for various reasons.

During seminary, I became acquainted with several guys, but only three--Gerald, Randy, and David--have become good friends.  There was this immediate connection, this automatic fellowship, that made me feel like I've known them all my life.  I've seen all three over the years for a variety of reasons, but I don't know them as well as I ought if they are truly "friends."

In different jobs, under different circumstances, I've found friends for the same reasons:  a sense that somehow we share a deeper affection, a raison d'etre, that pulled us together for a time.  Jeph, Ken, Ric, Martin--I knew as soon as I met these guys that we would be friends.  I think about them every once in a while--wonder how they're doing, finding out tidbits via social media--but since I don't spend time with them, it doesn't feel like we have a lasting friendship.

So, when it all comes down to it, my best friends are only four:  Sheri, Andrew, Emma, and Grace.  I need them in my life.  I crave spending time with them.  I think about them all the time.  I pray more for them than anyone else.  I trust them completely.  I can't imagine treating them like I have all of my other friends--only getting by with random updates and "hey, how are you doing" encounters.  I drink up the times we are together--now more than ever--because the centrifugal force of life is sending two of them away, with one yet to part.  The older I get the more I realize that time is the constant of friendship, and this irrepressible force we call "time" will leave me lonely for them.

I used to look forward to birthdays, the marking of time with presents.  Now all I want for my birthday is time--time with my friends.  And then I think of God.  Time.  Never ending.  Always together.  Never parting.  And I weep for the end of loneliness we call friendship.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Buffets and Television

I was an indiscriminate eater of buffet food when I was younger.  I'd plow through the line and grab most everything I liked, what looked good to me.  These days I can't stomach the thought of grazing at the buffet.  It all looks nasty to me.  High fat, deep fried, starch-city, warmed over, preservative-drenched mush.  Even if I closed my eyes and dove in, I'd regret it throughout the night.  My body would rebel, "What in the world have you thrown down here, you numbskull?"  Indigestion, tossing and turning, fat-induced coma the next day.  Bleary-eyed and stumbling through the work day, I would question my foolish consumption.  I have become an old man.  "I can't believe what people eat these days."

I was an indiscriminate consumer of television programs when I was younger.  I'd watch just about anything, no matter how mind-numbing or senseless.  These days I can't tolerate the nonsense that passes for entertainment.  It all looks ridiculous to me.  Low ball, over hyped, idiot-city, warmed over, commercial-drenched pabulum.  Even if I closed my mind and took it in, I'd regret it throughout the night.  My soul would rebel, "What in the world have you thrown in here, you fool?"  Easily distracted, rambling and wandering, short-attention span waste the next day.  Foggy-headed and uncreative through the work day, I would question my foolish consumption.  I have become an old man.  "I can't believe what people watch these days."

If you've ever visited (or lived) outside the U.S., you know what this feels like.  Turn the television on and the whole world is foreign.  None of the personalities are recognizable.  None of the programs are familiar.  That's what it feels like when I flash through television programs these days.  It's all foreign to me.  No matter how many people rave about "Duck Dynasty," I can't get through two minutes.  No matter how many people talk about "Honey Boo Boo," I can't even tolerate the commercials for it.  It feels like we're living the apocalyptic scenario predicted by the movie, "Idiocracy."

I've often said to my wife (sounding like an old man), "I honestly don't know anymore.  None of this makes any sense to me.  Why do people watch this stuff?  Have we become a nation of idiots?"  She offers a more perceptive take on this ever-increasing mountain of television mush, "I think I know why.  People love to make fun of other people.  They're not watching 'Honey Boo Boo' because they like it.  They're watching it because it feeds this dark place where we enjoy being cruel to others."

Well, that may be true.  But, we still have to live with the indigestion that results from the indiscriminate consumption of what is served at the buffet.

So, here's some advice from a curmudgeonly old man, "Watch what you watch, for goodness sake.  We are what we eat.  (As he turns to the television) are the Cardinals playing tonight?"