Day 3: Reconnect with an Old Friend

3 Sep

“The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” -Abraham Lincoln

Myself, Jamie. Masters of our High School domain.

Today’s Mission: Your task today is to make like the “men of old” and reconnect with an old friend, either by letter, phone, or email. Wild dogs shall be released upon any man who attempts to complete this task via Twitter.  

Men back then were just like you; they made close friendships and then often went their separate ways. The difference is that they made the effort to stay in touch. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were apart from each other for 14 years, yet they kept their friendship alive by writing 158 letters to each other.

I’ve been looking forward to writing this entry since I first conceived of the project.  The prospect of reflecting on years of quality friendship and its immeasurable experiences released enough dopamine to lift my (freshly polished) shoes off the ground momentarily.  Hyperbole this is not – this is Jamie.

Jamie and I have been friends for almost half of our lives – beginning early in high school and continuously accelerating ever since.  We effortlessly made our own girlfriends jealous of our friendship, laughed until we made ourselves physically ill, wrote correspondences as erudite as Jefferson and comedic as Carson, and jammed to music so anachronistic that we could have DJ’d your parents’ prom.  We are a force of nature – and typically people find us hilarious or amusingly obnoxious.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Man, the Myth: Jamie

Today I had the pleasure to reconnect with my oldest and arguably best friend over breakfast, a visit to a National Park, miles of driving and a trip to the movies.  We hardly missed a beat after not seeing each other for the past 3 months.  We discussed our siblings, our parents, our friends, women, politics, the Apollo program, Pat Tillman, Jan Brewer’s hilarious retrograde amnesia, our physical aches/pains, car repair and our growing “old man-erisms.”    Seeing my old friend today was a rejuvenating breath of fresh air with a cleansing hint of nitrous oxide.

There are not enough pages on this blog to detail our relationship with one another so I will focus on one facet of our relationship:  authenticity.  Jamie and I have shared an unusual level of forthrightness, trust, loyalty and mutual understanding since we first met in 10th grade.  We’ve been sincere with one another and shared our feelings in both good times and bad.  We are real – in an age where “reality tv” is the antithesis of reality, “social networking” masquerades as a relationship builder, and definitions of masculinity shift towards 6-pack abs and “testosterone-enhancing” materialism.  He drives a Geo, I drive a 14 year-old Camry…but our lives are “rich” in countless ways.

The male friendship has continued to evolve and respond to changes in society since the beginning of civilized time.  Aristotle viewed male friendships as “the most fulfilling relationship a person could have” and even extolled the virtue of the “heroic, platonic” male friendship over marital (female) love.  My how things have changed.

The man friendship underwent some serious transformations during the 20th century. Men went from lavishing endearing words on each other and holding hands to avoiding too much emotional bonding or any sort of physical affections whatsoever. Fear of being called gay drove much of the transformation. Ministers and politicians decried homosexuality as being incompatible with true manhood. And like most deviant behavior in the 1950s, homosexuality was associated with Communism.

Additionally, market economics began to influence male friendships. The Industrial Revolution and ideas like Social Darwinism changed the way men viewed each other. Instead of being a potential friend, the man next to you was competition. The world was an urban jungle and the man who looked out for himself was the man who was going to eat. It’s hard to develop the cutthroat instinct needed to destroy the competition when the competition happens to be your bosom buddy.

Increased mobility during the 20th century also contributed the decline in man friendships. When you have to follow your work, it’s hard to set down roots and make true friends. (From “The History of Male Friendships“, the Art of Manliness)

I highly encourage you to read the entirety of “The History of Male Friendships” for a refreshing perspective on the virtues of man-to-man friendships.

Jamie and I continue to chart new paths for our friendship as our lives evolve.  We don’t see each other as much as we used to and our priorities have changed as our careers, relationships, and families continue to (naturally) occupy more of our time.  I sincerely hope that we make up our (lack of) quantity with quality as we grow older.

Friendship, like agriculture, requires lifelong cultivation and an awareness of the many “seasons” of our lives.  That said, Jamie’s got plenty of flannel outwear to share and my grandfather worked decades for John Deere – we got it made.  We’ll be harvesting the fruits of our friendship through our sincere labor for season after season.  Thanks Jamie – any man would be privileged to call you “Friend.”

Full Mission Briefing:
Reconnect with an Old Friend
(via The Art of Manliness)

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One Response to “Day 3: Reconnect with an Old Friend”

  1. Lou Pilla September 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    Jonathan: I could not agree more with the need for good friends. And I know you and Jamie have weathered many trials and celebrated many successes.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have men friends in my life, two, Joe and Marc, of long standing. They have seen me through sorrow, anxiety, fear, and more, and have been there with me through the happy times and successes as well. Marc, especially, has been a rock through many storms, and I count him as my most important friend. This is not to say Marc and I have not had differences, but we continue to see each other through and rely on each other.

    There is a saying to the effect that a sorrow shared is halved, and a joy shared is doubled. For me, that’s quite true.

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