Daylight was breaking on the horizon.
The lake was so still that the sun’s reflection was a perfect mirror image; it looked like the morning had two suns rising at the same time.
Our chairs were still firmly entrenched around the fire. Our toes were still stuck in the sand.
Our once roaring fire had been reduced to barely-smoking ashes, but not one of us had noticed. It had been a warm evening and we had been distracted.
For the past hour or so, two of our friends had been engaged in a heated exchange of words. I say “heated” in the traditional sense, as this is a pretty common and socially accepted practice amongst my group of friends.
The five of us that were not involved pulled up a chair and listened to the insults being traded. As always, we served as the referees, judges of style, and the crowd – all at the same time.
It wasn’t Canada Day, but there was certainly some fireworks that night/early morning.
The battle had ended with the sunrise, and both combatants had felt they had gotten the better of their opponent.
One of the word warriors got up and headed back to the cottage, presumably to grab himself an ice cold James Ready for breakfast.
The other gladiator sat in silence, with a very strange grin on his face.
We took the bait. We asked him why he was smiling.
He told us he had an ace up his sleeve the entire time in case his victory was ever in question. He said it was lucky for his opponent that he hadn’t felt the need to use it.
We huddled around. We wanted to know what his secret weapon had been.
He leaned in a whispered and few words to us. He howled with laughter into the morning air.
A few of us released nervous laughs. Others just exchanged looks of shock. Maybe it was the hangover setting in, but some of us looked sick. I couldn’t help but ask:
Was this too far, even for us? Did we even have a “too far”?
Growing up with these guys, I used to wonder if we were even actually friends.
How could people who claimed to love one another – even to like one another – constantly go at it the way we did.
At first I presumed it was some sort of struggle of machoism; putting each other down to get to the top.
I later took comfort in the belief that it was a natural occurrence within a team, a sort of humbling system to ensure no single ego rose above the interests of the group.
But here we are, some of us twenty years later, and we’re still very much the same.
Like most of us, my biggest problem in understanding friendship was my definition of a friend.
I had confused acquaintances, schoolmates, and co-workers as my friends. I had confused people that I co-existed with, with people I flourished with.
It wasn’t until I realised the key element of a friendship that I truly understood why my group of friends had stuck together as long as it had.
This is because a true friendship is for the sake of friendship itself.
You are required to give no more to the relationship than your friendship, and expect nothing more in return.
As soon as the friendship is based upon other intentions or motives, it ceases to be a friendship at all.
Take your high school experience, for example. Some of the people you considered your friends you considered them so only because they were a part of your social group.
The intention of the relationship was founded on the motive of maintaining cohesion and harmony in your group of friends – not on the friendship itself.
Odds are you no longer maintain a relationship with those people.
We had a team of practically the same 17-18 guys every season for a decade, and yet only 8 or 9 of us are still close. Some were friends for the sake of the team, the ones who stayed close were friends for the sake of friendship.
It’s not to say we don’t love them. I’m personally fond of all of the guys I played with. Our relationship simply wasn’t built on something that lasts. It served a lesser purpose.
When there is no expectation in a friendship other than the friendship itself, we attain a certain freedom.
We don’t have to fall into line, wear certain clothes, or perform desired functions. We’re accepted exactly how we are.
We don’t have to be someone we’re not.
We don’t have to hide.
Friends see us exactly as we are, and they love us for it.
This is why my group of friends could constantly joke about each other’s idiosyncrasies, faults, habits, and mistakes, without anyone getting too bent out of shape about it.
We all inherently knew that the group wasn’t trying to change us as people. The group was confirming our own humanity.
We were telling each other that who we were was good enough. We were laughing at each other’s faults because they were normal; our mistakes were human.
We forced each other to look in the mirror, and be perfectly okay with what we saw.
Does anything truly exist if no one is witness to its existence?
Friendship is both the confirmation of our existenc
– exactly how we are – and the complete acceptance of it.
True friendships are an integral part of a happy life.
Not only because we – as humans – are social creatures, but friendships help us to understand ourselves and the world around us.
Instead of living in those big beautiful brains of ours, we can talk with someone deeply without fear of judgement.
We can express our fears of things like death, inadequacy, flying, or clowns. Through these connections we learn our fears are perfectly normal and, more often than not, we work through these fears together.
We can hear each other’s ideas on the afterlife, on happiness, on love. We can help each other to grow.
This is why the greatest lovers are those who founded their relationship upon strong friendships.
It is why you so often hear couples in their 90’s call one another their best friend.
Beginning a relationship around lust is the same as beginning a friendship with the person from your social group in high school.
It’s the same as a friendship based on a professional connection.
It is the same as a friendship based on money, popularity, protection, or benefits of any kind.
They all serve ends that can be obtained.
You can attain harmony of the social group; you can attain the pleasures of the flesh; you can attain that promotion, you can attain the acceptance of a gang.
If the friendship – or relationship – is based on desires that can be attained, they are doomed.
The relationship ceases to meaningfully exist once it serves its purpose.
A friendship, on the other hand, will always have the friendship to aspire to.
It is something that will last forever.
Any true friendship will.
Be good to each other,