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Friendship, Evolving

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Evolving Systems


Notes Towards our Gathering on “Friendship, Evolving,” Tues, Feb.8, 2011

Notes from Skyping: Anne and Alice, 2/6/11
we are bringing in other guests, and saying,
“we are coming from somewhere”
we first gathered 1 ½ yrs ago, for more “prepared” conversations

Evolsys began w/ “againstness”:
Sontag against interpretation/Feyerabend against method/
Stallybrass against thinking/ &
we talked about ourselves as “against academia”

today we place friendship on the table,
wondering to what degree we think of it as “against”…
academic life? other dimensions of our lives?

could academic life support or nurture friendship?
do we think of professionalism vs. friendship?
What limits do we accept, as co-workers, co-authors?
What are the boundaries of collegiality?
Mightn’t it be the source of our deepest friendships?
(Alison says “colleague” is from the Latin: to bind together)

How important is it to name our friends, as friends?
Paul re The Station Agent: “there is no name for what they are”:
without external standards or absolutes, can they care for one another?
the most poignant moment in the movie:
“you’re not my boyfriend and you’re not my son”;
i.e. there is no scripted space for you—> I can’t let you help me.

does identifying as an academic professional make it
harder to be in the “we,” more intersubjective; or…?
does it enable us to go outside and beyond ourselves,
our individual investments?

nothing matters more than friendship, and yet:
our ways of work and family are not organized to support that

and yet, per Emerson: friendship is in reaction to and w/ separation:
in the movie: you see that in the easy separateness of Olivia and Fin
(“we can just eat; we don’t have to talk”)

What would an evolutionary perspective be on this?
when organisms have to make use of what is around themselves,
to do the next thing…
as per Adrienne Rich: “we must use what we have to invent what we desire”
you can’t fly over where you are;
there’s nothing but to move w/ what’s around you

from the Dalai Lama (or is it The Echo Maker?):
once you recognize that we are all vulnerable,
you can love everyone, be tender

from “Being w/ Dying”: after her father’s death, she realized
that he was not local, but universal—had never been in one place
asked by the nurse, “How are you feeling?” he replied, “Everything.”

cf. Paul’s sense now that the stories he tells are not just his,
not separate from his engagement w/ others:
that sounds general; what about partiality?

cf. also GK Chesterton re: St. Francis:
our whole lives just hang on the will of God
cf. also Hyde and the beggar’s bowl:
the emptiness makes way for something to come fill

Reading Notes from  Emerson, “Friendship” (1841)
I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends
, the old and the new.

My friends have come to me unsought… the Deity in me and in them … cancels the thick walls of individual character, relation, age, sex, circumstance… and now makes many one. High thanks I owe you, excellent lovers, who … enlarge the meaning of all my thoughts.

A new person is to me a great event, and hinders me from sleep.

Yet the systole and diastole of the heart are not without their analogy in the ebb and flow of love….The law of nature is alternation for evermore. Each electrical state superinduces the opposite. The soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude; and it goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its conversation or society.

….let us approach our friend with an audacious trust in the truth of his heart, in the breadth, impossible to be overturned, of his foundations.

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frostwork, but the solidest thing we know.

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud…I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.

The other element of friendship is tenderness.

I find this law of one to one peremptory for conversation, which is the practice and consummation of friendship. Do not mix waters too much.

Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and unlikeness…. Let me be alone to the end of the world, rather than that my friend should overstep, by a word or a look, his real sympathy. I am equally balked by antagonism and by compliance. Let him not cease an instant to be himself. ..I hate… to find a mush of concession. Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo. The condition which high friendship demands is ability to do without it.

Leave this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a spirit.

I do then with my friends as I do with my books. I would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use them.

We will meet as though we met not, and part as though we parted not.

The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust.

Alice’s notes on The Station Agent
I too found it so sweet -- hopeful, too.  The ending scene where they are all sitting together facing forward, in the candle-lit dark, laughing like middle-age mates about the loveliness of a young girl.  Also interesting to me is that way they get together: Joe's energy/need/skill as "glue," the circulation of gifts (good food, groceries delivered, library book, camera).  Everyone brings what they have (wheels, stories, losses, languages and silences, lips for kissing, ideas -- i.e., for a good time, call Joe) and it's enough.  Something also elemental about their connecting, and about the scene -- something hyper-realistic in this sense, all the static drained off.  I feel as if this is how Paul likes to live.



bolshin's picture

Friends at a distance?

How about friends at a distance?

(from Benjamin B. Olshin, in Taiwan)

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