Friendship, Part II

October 9, 2009

NOTE: This is the second in a series on friendship. View the first post here.

Let’s consider some of the practical implications of friendship.

What are the deepest desires underlying friendship? You want to love someone, and, in turn, be loved. You want someone you can trust and talk to. You want to help this other human being progress. Indeed, seeing the progress he makes as a result of the influence you have had on him is incredibly rewarding.

But friendship is give-and-take, so to speak. It can’t be one-sided. As such, it takes a lot of effort.

The other day I noticed a train of thought I experienced. It is much easier for me to overlook the faults and foibles of a friend than an enemy. While I may be quick to criticize an enemy (even if not verbally), I tend to be much more patient with my friends. And in such an important relationship, this usually tends to be a good thing. It leads to deep, abiding love despite imperfection. After all, my friends have to put up with a lot of my idiosyncrasies and mistakes. Why shouldn’t I be patient with theirs?

Friendship requires a deep level of trust, which (naturally) takes a long time to develop. Trusting someone could be a rather dangerous thing. Many examples in history illustrate this danger. For example, Julius Caesar is betrayed by his associate Marcus Brutus; Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his twelve closest friends; Lehonti in the Book of Mormon is poisoned by Amalickiah, a man who had professed to have his best interest at heart.

I would trust my best friend with anything I have, from the dark secrets of my inner self to my passwords or bank card. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have given him all those things, but the trust exists that I would be comfortable doing it, were it to be necessary. This places me in a very vulnerable situation. Should he betray me, I could lose everything. But the value and benefit of the friendship outweighs that risk.

That is, of course, a very objective way of looking at it. Rarely is emotion absent from analysis of important human relationships. When I’m with my friend, I’m not worried about whether he might betray me at some future time. We trust each other, and the emotion of love breaks down the obscuring walls of objectivity.

While there are great risks, there are great benefits to be had in a friendship. I see this as a manifestation of the age-old principle of the necessity of “opposition in all things,” as Book of Mormon writer Lehi phrases it, or as a relative of Newton’s Third Law that there can be no reaction without an instigating action.


Friendship, Part I

October 3, 2009

I’ve been pondering lately about the value of friendship: What defines it, what makes it different from other, shallower relationships.

In this part, I’ll address some of the spiritual aspects of friendship.

There are a few passages in the Bible that illustrate friendship. The example that most stands out to me is David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel. Other references to and maxims about friendship can be found in the Writings (e.g., Proverbs, Psalms).

This July, while I was in the Netherlands, I read several passages in Proverbs and composed a poem based on them. It expresses well the feelings I have toward my friends.

A Faithful Friend

Thy reproach, O friend, is faithful.
What have I to do with the flattery of mine enemies?
They are as naught to me.

The gifts thou hast given me
Endear thy soul to me
And arouse my deepest gratitude.

Though calamity rage and my brother be far,
Thou dost stand close; thou lendest thy strength
To succor me.

What is thy counsel but sweetness to me
That rejoiceth my heart
And sharpeneth my countenance?

Thy counsel, thy strength, thy gifts—
My heart doth soar in thanksgiving to my Maker
For His gift—a faithful friend.

Based on Proverbs 19:6; 27:6, 9, 10, and 17

The counsel, advice, even rebuke of my friends is always done in love. Because I feel that love and know that their intention is to help me become a better person, I accept it gladly. My friends have given me gifts of many types. Most often it was simply spending time with me or giving of themselves in some simple way to help me. They have stood by me in the good times and in the hard times.

Indeed, supportive friends have helped me become the person I am today. They have helped me develop spiritually in the way that was best for me. It has been especially rewarding to reunite with them after we’ve been separated for two years all over the world.

Microcosmic intersection

July 17, 2007

A microcosm is a self-contained world, a subset of one’s experiences. But for a microcosm to be completely isolated from all others is hardly possible. In our everyday lives we move in and out of various microcosms, each containing its own people, places, circumstances, and associated ideas. It is this intersection of microcosms I wish to study here.

The most obvious contrast is that of work and home. My work is a much different environment than my family life, which isn’t a bad thing. The people I know at my job are great, and I very much enjoy working with them. And my family is wonderful (which goes without saying :-)). But my family has never met my coworkers, and my coworkers have never met my family. However, I have met all of them; both of these microcosms form a part of my experience.

Now, I look at each person around me and must realize that I am only seeing the part of them that fits within the microcosm in which I know them. My work supervisor has a family life, and certainly many hobbies and interests not related to information technology. And sometimes he does tell us about them. But the perception I have of him is largely defined by his knowledge, behavior, and idiosyncracies as they emerge on and relate to the job.

A similar statement can be made of the friends I roomed with last year in college, the people in my classes, or acquaintances I made in various other situations. I may only have seen a small part of their character or merely scratched the surface of their depth of knowledge. Much more would be evident if I were to see a larger cross section of their lives.

In the same way that I see only a part of someone’s character in light of one microcosm, I understand the people and the world around me through the lenses of all the microcosms that comprise my life experience. One of my friends has taught me a tremendous amount about friendship. I only know as much about him as he has allowed me to see, but I know he has had a great deal more experience than I. As he has patiently shared the knowledge he has gained from his microcosmic intersections, he has expanded my view and helped me better understand myself and others. He is a part of my microcosmic intersection.

My family, of course, has taught me much about life, responsibility, and respectability. Both of my parents are well educated and want their children to be so, too. They have had many experiences that have defined them and made them the wonderful parents they are. I have benefited from their experience and knowledge as they have taught me and helped me become the person I am today. They are a part of my microcosmic intersection.

Reading and writing in the blogging community has taught me much about technology, current opinion, and writing. Certainly the bloggers with whom I interact (however indirectly that interaction be) form the most diverse microcosm of which I am a part, as they span the globe and run the gamut of political and religious belief, interest, and experience. They are a part of my microcosmic intersection.

Religion has always played a major role in my life and has helped me develop the beliefs and values I hold dear. I have met so many good people through my involvement in this microcosm who have taught and nurtured me. The unifying power of religion has brought our separate spheres and ideas into focus and shaped our lives. Religion is a part of my microcosmic intersection.

I think it would be well for us to look around ourselves and recognize the people and the microcosmic intersections that define our views of life. Each person has his own ideas and opinions, beliefs and values, defined by his microcosms. These microcosms contain other people who have their own views and goals. Thus we see the great circle: the macrocosm of the human race is viable only because each of us has vitality and individuality and yearns for interaction with others.

Life is defined by microcosmic intersection.

End-of-term woes

June 18, 2007

So spring term is just about over. Today was the last day of classes. I feel pretty sad, actually. I have very much enjoyed this term, both for the setting (spring term is a lot quieter than fall/winter), and for my classes. I still miss the BYU 47th Ward, but I have made a few friends in Heritage, too. It’s going to be hard for me to go home after being at college for ten months straight. I love this campus and going to school at BYU.

I’ve had three classes: Old Testament, Linear Algebra, and Basic Vocal Skills. All three have been challenging but very rewarding. I have increased my knowledge and understanding of the Bible many times over, for which I am very grateful. I’ve learned that I can enjoy math, as long as I put forth the effort to understand it. And I’ve become a much better, more confident soloist. (I even sang a solo in sacrament meeting a couple weeks ago, something I would never have had the courage to do a year ago.)

It’s so interesting and even tragic how we don’t fully realize how much we love and appreciate someone or something until we are forced to leave it. This happened with my friends winter semester, and now with my friends spring term, and with college in general. I am loathe to leave, except that I’ve got so many other things to do that I can’t do here.

I finally gave in and got a Facebook this weekend. I had told myself I wasn’t going to get one until after the mission, but peer pressure and my fascination with new toys convinced me to get one after all. I’ve enjoyed it so far. If any of my (loyal) readers aren’t already on my friend list, feel free to add me, if you like.


June 4, 2007

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
Henry David Thoreau

Although I don’t agree with many of Thoreau’s ideas, I think he has this one right.

You walk down the street and pass someone you know. “How are you?” he says. “Fine” is your standard reply, no matter how tormented or depressed you may feel in your heart. I am reminded of Dunbar’s poem:

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties.Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries
To Thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Paul Laurence Dunbar

In such dark surroundings, do we allow ourselves to become what the world wants us to become, to only see us wearing a mask that fits their expectations? Why are we so silent and resigned about our difficulties and trials? What does it mean to have a friend? When we find such a friend, do we appreciate him for what he means to us?

I found several scriptures in the Bible today that really spoke to me:

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
–Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
–Proverbs 27:17 (KJV)

To all my friends, I want you to know how much I have appreciated your kind words and listening ears; for being there when I was going through hard times; for putting up with my faults and helping me become a better person. You guys are awesome. I hope I have been able to return something of that to you. Thank you for being my friend–you have meant the world to me.

Mercado’s going to Chile!!

May 31, 2007

I’m so excited for him! So far he’s the only 7th Floorer that I recall who will be speaking a language he already knew. (I and two others took German in high school, and we’ll will be learning Dutch, Mandarin, and Spanish. Another guy knew French and got sent Spanish-speaking. And so forth…)

Anyway. I hope I’m not stealing his thunder, but I just wanted to write something about it. 🙂

Go Ye and Preach My Gospel

May 24, 2007

I have had the privilege of immersing myself in the Old Testament over the last month. It is wonderful to see how key principles of the gospel are taught in this ancient scripture.

chalkboard3.jpgI’ve been thinking very much lately about missionary work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of my 7th Floor friends have either started their mission papers, received their calls, or entered the MTC. I am reminded of a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that we had the chalkboard of our commons room (pictured):

Wherefore, go ye and preach my gospel, whether to the north or to the south, or to the east or to the west, it mattereth not, for ye cannot go amiss. (D&C 80:3)

Another scripture along those same lines is this:

Go ye into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature, acting in the authority which I have given you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (D&C 68:8)

A passage we came across today in my Old Testament class is called the Priestly Blessing and applies so well to this subject:

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: / The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: / The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24-26, KJV)

To all the 7th Floor missionaries, God be with you! Go forth into the world and preach the gospel. May the Lord bless you!