18 February 2012

On Friendship

They tell me I am a difficult person to know. I find that hard to understand because my counselor some years ago observed that I was extraordinarily open, and that I had as she put it, " no mask." She also observed and objected to what she called an, "unfortunate tendency to be self-deprecating." Perhaps that is the problem? I do not know.

In the event, I have had relatively few close friends over the years. So, when a friendship ends, especially in stony silence after something like fifty years, the pain runs deep. Fifty years is a long, long time. We went to school together, were in each other's weddings,family joys and tragedies. Suddenly last Fall - silence. I have now made so many unsuccessful attempts to contact him that I fear I may be charged with stalking. Silence: I do not know why.

At some point, I suppose, even I get the message. Or at least I understand that there is a message; even if I do not know what it is! So, I am in mourning this week, mourning a relationship I valued.


Theologians tell us that salvation is about reclamation and relationship. "Hell" is I read, the opposite of relationship. If this is how it feels; it is worse than the stupid lake of fire crud the fundygelicals like to throw at us affirming anglo-catholic sorts.

Being isolated is often the ultimate punishment. Consider solitary confinement in prisons. Sometimes we do this to ourselves, sometimes we suffer it at the hands of others, sometimes we experience it intentionally as a part of a retreat or other spiritual practice: silence is never easy.

Those of us who practice prayer disciplines like centering prayer, meditation, or rosary prayer, often reach out to groups. There is no obvious reason to get together with others for centering prayer or meditation. In fact, doing so is counter-intuitive. After all, it is silence that we often need and seek. And yet we do it in groups. Entire religious orders, major monasteries are erected to celebrate this paradox: silent monastics could simply be hermits! But then, the greatest hermits of them all the desert fathers, serious meditators all, silent most of the time, wrote each other constantly. I suspect that today they would all have blogs.

I wonder in this case what sort of isolation am I experincing? Clearly I did or failed to do something. So I suppose it as a penalty for my misconduct or lack of conduct. But I thought we both valued our relationship - I would expect to know or be told what was wrong. What do we call the silence self-imposed by him, on him?


I do have friends that will not waver, even after 50 years. Especially, there are Sue-z and Jesus. But, even they can be hard to reach out to - to realize in relationship. 44 years into our marriage, Sue-z and I know that sometimes even our relationship does not work. We are confident those times will pass, and eventually they do. But we are mere mortals and sooner or later one of us will die. Silence imposed.

That leaves Jesus. Even he can be hard to perceive. Everyone committed to prayer, every mystic knows the times of silence. The moments when she/he cannot find the place where God looks at them as they look at him. We know, if we have walked those paths before that the silence will end, but we also know those silent times, and we fear them.


Do not be isolated and silent this day! Pray, meditate as you choose, or even consider finding a new way.* Talk to your beloved, your friends, and your kids. Be in the moment and in the relationships that matter to you. Even solitary monastics have correspondents, and in our day blogs. Follow their example. Say "I am here to hear you" and "I love/value/care about you" as appropriate.

And if by chance you talk to my former friend, assure him I still wish him well, even in his silence.


* If you are seeking a new way and need some guidance, Google "Centering Prayer." You will find friends, classes and welcome.


Unknown said...

hi Jim - sounds hard. I've had friends dump me without explanation and, if I'm honest, have been known to back away from friendships myself without giving a "why" (though not if I knew I was valued and they gave me strong signals that they wanted the friendship to continue, which you have). As you say, fifty years is a very long time :(

JCF said...


They tell me I am a difficult person to know.

I get that a lot, too. Either I "don't talk" "not sociable" *OR* I'm "too in-your-face" (and "too loud").

It feels like I can't win.

JimB said...

Cathy, JCF, thanks for your notes. Hang in there, maybe it will get better! (So far, not so good here, but I am working on it!)


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