Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Temporary friends

The subject of friendship is on my mind. There is a thought that we make friends and forge relationships with people that last a lifetime. There is a related idea of soulmates. These things are the result, I believe, of literature and music and movies and do not really reflect reality.

The idea of these special relationships is based on the thought that we are all unique, that each person is as different from one to the next as fingerprints. This is true in the literal sense, but untrue in practical terms. People are different, of course, but our similarities outweigh our differences by a large measure. Friends are friends out of geographical convenience. The internet has changed that a little bit, but it has only altered the geography.

Friends I had in high school and college (Andrew, for example) drift away. I think about my youth sometimes and of the memories I have. Summer is, as always, a potent fountain of memories and sentiment. There are times when I think it would be fun to try to organize a sort of reunion of all my old friends. We had a 'gang' and did everything together. Memories of my teenage years are deeply and inextricably tied to these people. This is not uncommon, I know. The institution of high school reunions (which I did not attend, I should add) is founded on this principle. High school is an extremely formative time and the people we share those experiences with play an important role in our lives.

And yet I cannot go back. I have spent far too much time apart. My recent dialogue with Andrew proves my point. We have nothing real in common, nothing current. Even if our philosophical views were not diametrically opposed, we would have little to discuss. I have more in common with coworkers that I have known for three months than I have with Andrew, whom I have known since I was 15. My atheism makes the reunion almost impossible, since all of my friends are still Christians. In fact, if I found any old friend who was an atheist, I think we might still have trouble connecting, just because something like religion (or the absence of it) is not enough to make a friend.

It is sad to think that the people we hold dear might sometime fade into nothing more than a name and a collection of memories. But it is nice to know that for every unique snowflake that melts behind us, there are a thousand more, swirling around us every day.

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